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1 



1J7\ . 1 

SACKCLOTH AND BROADCLOTH. 



A NO V E L. 



BY 



JEAN MIDDLEMASS, 



AUTHOR OF WILD GEORGIE, SEALED BY A KISS, INNOCEN'CE AT PLAY, 
ETC., ETC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 



VOL. II. 



TINSLEY BROTHERS, 

CATHERINE STREET, STRAND, 

LONDON. 

I 88 I. 

\^AU Rights re served. '\ 



COLSTON AND SON, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH. 







Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



CHAPTER I. 



LADY VALENTIN A. 




A PA can never go to a ball with- 
^^^ out getting a headache, unless 
he is home in time to hear his 
own clock strike one.' 

This interesting physical fact was enunci- 
ated in her usual dead level way by Valen- 
tina, only daughter of the fourteenth Earl 
of Beaurepaire, as she sat armed cap-d-pie 
against such cold as there was in the super- 
portal gardenette of their house in Belgrave 
Square. Her remark was in response to 
a half-serious, half-playful reproof she had 

VOL. IL A 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 



just received from the Duchess of Mont- 
arh's, for having left her ball — a fete de 
noces given in honour of the duke's niece — 
the previous evening. It was about two 
o'clock in the afternoon, and the two 
ladies were sitting together enjoying some 
unusually bright gleams of November sun- 
shine. 

Lady Valentina, a distant relation of the 
duke's, was of a very different world to that 
in which Mrs Tremayne, the duchess's usual 
associate, moved. 

Till one happens to want, and conse- 
quently to seek a specimen, the extreme 
rarity of typical individuals is but seldom 
realised. 

To be the type of a class, the first requisite 
is the absence of all strongly-marked per- 
sonal characteristics. By the same rule that 
a mesmerist is never a good subject for 
mesmerism, so a typical individual is con- 
stituted but to reflect the general character 



Lady Valentina. 



of his surroundings, and not to Influence 
or Impress them with any part of his own 
idiosyncrasy. Lady Valentina was a strong 
case in point, though the large yet terribly 
select world in which she moved, offers but 
few typical specimens of distinguished men 
or women. 

In the most recherchd assembly of, say 
three hundred people, we venture to affirm 
that it will always be difficult — often impos- 
sible — to select three persons of each sex 
who, seen singly, and In any unusual position, 
in a bathing dress, or down a coal mine for 
instance, would at once impress a casual ob- 
server with their unconscious but indelible 
air noble. Lady Valentina's associates were 
all of what is vulgarly styled ' the first cream.' 
All had much the same training, blood, and 
opportunities as herself ; but the difference 
lay in the fact that they for the most part 
only possessed negatively, what existed in 
her so to speak actively. They were not 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



in any way common or ill bred ; but she 
was noticeably the reverse. 

* Two negatives make one affirmative,' 
saith the grammar, an indefinite number of 
negatives made up the strong affirmative 
which rendered the noble Valentina a class- 
type ; the hauteur stamped upon her nature 
and royal beauty being due chiefly to the 
permanent banishment of every other ex- 
pression. 

Her speech was devoid of rise or fall ; 
she was not clever, though she possessed 
admirable sense ; she was not witty, not 
accomplished in any just sense of the word, 
not enthusiastic about anything in the uni- 
verse, not learned, not even ignorant. 

This sketch of her characteristics would 
scarcely denote her as remarkable were one 
strong, almost startling individuality omitted 
— her marvellous, almost tremendous repose. 
The Duchess of Montarlis \N2iS grande dame 
to a degree that crushed the uninitiated ; 



Lady Valenti7ia. 



but all the lustre of her queenllness paled 
before the more effortless unaimed at tran- 
quillity of the imperial Valentina. 

' I regret exceedingly Lord Beaurepaire's 
fear of headache, since your early departure 
last night prevented you from making fuller 
acquaintance with my young protege' 

' Mr Desborough ? ' 

* Yes, Matthew Desborough. George is 
very amusing and quite nice, but he is not 
altogether the sort of man to be patronised/ 

* Ah ! I do not know him except by sight 
and name ; but your young friend seems very 
pleasant. He is engaged to be married, is 
he not ? ' 

* Now who on earth told you that ? ' 

* Mrs Tremayne.' 

' Violet Tremayne is a fool. If a man 
looks at a girl twice, she always says they 
are engaged.' 

' Oh, that is all ! ' and Lady Valentina 
reclined yet more comfortably in her chair, 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



and gave her soft satin skirts a wider 
expanse. There was a short pause, broken 
by a remark from the duchess, uttered as 
if she were half afraid of offending her 
companion. 

* Report has linked your name with that 
of Lord Casdetowers,' she said very daintily. 
' If there is any truth in It, why not have 
told me — one of your oldest friends.' 

' Lord Castletowers ! ' and Lady Valen- 
tlna's eyebrows arched. * His grandmother 
was a milliner.' 

' And must the blood be noble } ' asked the 
duchess. ' Has love no levelling power ? ' 

' Love ! ' and the word was spoken with 
an expression of supreme contempt. ' I care 
not for titles so the race be pure.' 

* As long as the aristocracies of rank and 
wealth commingle, what matter ? ' The 
duchess laughed forcedly — she herself had 
brought money from cottonocracy into the 
ducal house of Montarlis. ' Then Matthew 



Lady Valentina. 



Desborough will be especially recom- 
mended to you. His sixteen quarterings 
are without a flaw — not noble, except 
in some alliances, but traceable back 
as far as the Norman kings ; there is 
never a link missing in the genealogy of 
the squires of Vantage, and Mrs Des- 
borough's father was a Tenterden — a name 
which is a host in itself ; her mother a 
Scrivenour, one of us, you know, while 
her grandmother — * 

* My dear duchess, pray have mercy. I 
am not going to pass a genealogical exami- 
nation. Your Mr Matthew Desborough is 
charming — what can I say more ? and withal 
good-looking ; he has but one fault — youth.' 

' That is a very trifling one, my dear 
Valentina.' 

' Not altogether. He is so impetuous, 
so zealous — in fact so young that he makes 
me feel quite maternal.* 

' Borrow some of his redundancy of 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



colouring — its absence is the one want in 
your character, if I may venture to say 
what I think.' 

' You, duchess ; oh, yes, of course you 
are privileged to speak as you please, still 
I disagree with you. Nothing, according to 
my opinion, is so detestable as strongly- 
marked individual qualities. Did I unfor- 
tunately possess them, I would devote my 
life to uprooting them as though they were 
upas trees.' 

' Yet vapidity is surely a worse poison 
than originality,' persisted the duchess. 
' For my part, I would rather be called 
clever than bon ton; but not being clever, 
I try to faire valoh" my position. I am 
sure that the world would be very stupid 
if everybody was — of us.' 

* Oh, duchess ! how can you hold such 
heretical opinions. I once heard one of 
papa's political friends say that refinement 
is death to originality, and I instantly voted 



Lady Valentma. 



him a boor, and took no farther trouble to 
talk to him, though I was told he was 
amiable and 2l parti' 

' Lord Beaurepaire Is very anxious you 
should marry,' said the duchess ; ' he was 
talking to me about it only a day or two 
ago.' 

A faint flush spread Itself over Lady 
Valentina's proud face. She was elght- 
and-twenty, it was true, but she felt so cer- 
tain that having remained single till that 
age was entirely her own doing, that she did 
not choose to have an opposite view of the 
case even hinted at, far less that the matter 
should be discussed, as though a topic of 
mere sale or barter, by her father and the 
duchess. 

* When I find an individual who suits me 
in every respect, perhaps Lord Beaurepalre's 
wish will be gratified,' she said with a quiet 
dignity that made the duchess smile. 

' Ideal men are rare. You may spend a 



1 o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

lifetime in the search, neglecting meanwhile 
the practical exigencies of life.' 

* Exigencies, my dear duchess. Is mar- 
riage an exigency ? * 

* In some cases — yes. You are an only 
child. At Lord Beaurepaire's death his title 
and estates will ^o to a distant cousin, with 
whom I know you have but little sympathy. 
Do you never think what your position may 
be then ? ' 

* Perhaps. But my father is strong — 
young for his age ; the time is distant,' and 
there was just a little choke about Lady 
Valentina's voice as she spoke ; her love for 
Lord Beaurepaire was as yet the strongest 
feeling of which her heart had been capable. 

* That is all true, my dear child, and sin- 
cerely do I hope that Lord Beaurepaire may 
live many, many years; still, I think it would 
add very much to his longevity if he could 
see you happily married.' 

* Has he commissioned you to tell me this ? ■ 



Lady Valentina. 1 1 

* No ; I am entirely taking the Initiative. 
I have been so successful myself in the 
matrimonial market, you see, that I should 
like you to follow my example.' 

' Find another Duke of Montarlls,' and 
Lady Valentina smiled aloud ; never would 
she be guilty of so vulgar a recreation as 
a laugh. 

Now the duchess, for reasons of her own, 
had planned in her head an alliance between 
Lady Valentina and no more exalted an In- 
dividual than Matthew Desborough. What 
did Lady Valentina want with a duke ? 
She was in a position to confer rank ; it 
was quite unnecessary that she should re- 
ceive it. So partly to oblige her dear friend 
Mrs Desborough, but much more at the 
instigation of Mr Sivewrlght, she had under- 
taken to do her best In arranging this mar- 
riage. Poor Claire ; she was Ignorant of 
the powerful engines that had been set at 
work to separate her from Matthew. As 



1 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

yet, however, but little harm was done. 
Matthew had been more astonished and 
awed than pleasurably impressed by Lady 
Valentina's cold majestic bearing ; while she 
had regarded him as a mere cipher — a hand- 
some boy, who looked well in a drawing- 
room, and whom the great ladies would 
consequendy invite to their parties. The 
duchess was quite sufficiently au coztrant 
with the workings of life to be aware that 
the bare mention of Matthew's name at this 
juncture would at once frustrate all her 
schemes ; so she merely answered Lady Val- 
entina's last remark by saying carelessly, — 

' Proud as I am of Montarlis, I scarcely 
think him to be the only matrimonial prize. 
We must use all our woman's acumen, my 
dear Valentina, and see if we cannot sift 
the good qualities from the bad ones among 
our masculine acquaintances. You have al- 
ready acknowledged, In your allusion to the 
duke, that I am not deficient In discernment.' 



Lady Valentina, 13 

' You can do as you like, but remember 
I have not given my consent,' said Lady 
Valentina stiffly. 

The conversation was at this moment in- 
terrupted by the advent of Lord Beaurepaire, 
a grand specimen of blue blood, courteous 
and charming ; in appearance and bearing 
a very race-horse. 

* My dear child, you will take cold. 
Duchess, is this wise ? Remember it is 
November, though the sun does shine 
feebly.' 

'It is so refreshing to sit here after last 
night's ball,' pleaded the duchess. ' You see 
I did not go to bed this morning on the 
stroke of one.' 

' No ; I am afraid we ran away rather 
early. But I own to being fond of my 
bed ; and as far as Valentina is concerned, 
I think a lady should never leave a ball- 
room less fresh than when she entered it.' 

' Indeed ! ' said the duchess archly, perhaps 



14 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

she thoueht of the wild danclne, the lone 
nights devoted to Terpsichore she had 
passed in those eventful years never alluded 
to now — before she had entered the charmed 
precincts of the aristocracy. 

' You agree with papa, I am sure,' put in 
Lady Valentina. ' It does look horrid to 
see a woman go home with her dress 
chiffonn^ and torn, her hair crimpless, her 
flowers flattened.' 

' Of course I do ; but why is so dissipated 
an alternative necessary. It is only the 
romps of society who waste their clothes 
and their appearance in so wanton a manner. 
Violet Tremayne danced till four this morn- 
ing, and her toilette looked as if it had just 
arrived from Paris.' 

' Mrs Tremayne is a singularly happy 
instance of a woman who allows herself the 
freedom of being a little fast, without over- 
stepping the boundaries of good taste and 
decorum,' said Lord Beaurepaire warmly. 



Lady Valentina. 15 

The duchess smiled ; perhaps she thought 
how utterly those within the pale fail, as a 
rule, to detect the adventuress, if the part be 
acted with the faintest amount of cleverness 
and dash, much less when played by so ac- 
complished a comedian as Violet Tremayne. 
In fact, the duchess was very much aston- 
ished at the manner in which Mrs Tremayne 
was accepted, even feted, by very fastidious 
people, especially by those arch exclusionists 
— the Beaurepaires. And who shall say 
but that, in strict privacy, the duchess and 
her friend did not ungratefully indulge in 
many a laugh and joke at the expense of the 
great world into which they had been so 
amiably received ? 

The arrival of Lord Beaurepaire had put 
a stop for a time to the intimate conversa- 
tion of the two ladies ; and as a chill was 
creeping over the unusually bright afternoon, 
the duchess rose to take her departure, not 
altogether dissatisfied with her first step 



1 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

in the art of match-making-, though 
bably any other but herself would have 
believed no ground whatever had been 
eained. 

' Delightful woman the duchess, so grace- 
ful and refined,' Lord Beaurepaire observed 
to his daughter when they were alone. 

His early retreat from the ball had evi- 
dently put him in a good humour, for he 
seemed particularly eulogistic of humanity 
that afternoon, especially of the female por- 
tion. Could it be that Violet Tremayne — 
but no, she would never have dared. 

' The duchess has got a new protdgd, a 
Mr Matthew Desborough,' said Lady Valen- 
tina quietly — a boy ; his people live some- 
where near Montarlis.' 

' A very handsome youth. I saw him 
last night, of course ; dear me, I knew his 
mother well in fifty — ; but no, I won't go 
into dates. We'll ask the boy to dinner, 
Valentina ; it will only be kind.' 



Lady Valentina. 17 

' If you like, papa ; but very young men 
are generally bores, they are so offensive 
and overpowering.' 

' Do us good, dear ; we want a little fresh- 
ness and light sometimes, I am not sure 
you and I, living for each other as much as 
we do, have not become rather shadowy. 
My Valentina must not become old before 
her hair whitens,* and Lord Beaurepaire 
smoothed his daughter's jet black hair, as 
it was colled classically round her head with- 
out a straggling lock to mark that she lived 
in an age when fashion takes furze bushes 
and birds' nests as models for ladies' coiffures. 
Lady Valentina^ smiled under the paternal 
caress, and gave her consent about inviting 
Matthew ; perhaps he would bring a fusion 
of young life into their circle, she thought, 
and then she wondered what feeling young 
was like — gush and abandon and impetu- 
osity had ever been unknown to Lady Val- 
entina — it was not that she suppressed them 

VOL. II. B 



1 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

for the sake of propriety, but that a wild 
pulse-beat from any sudden cause would 
have been impossible to her. 

So Lord Beaurepaire wrote a kind note 
of invitation to Matthew, telling him of his 
early acquaintance with his mother, and the 
second step was taken along the winding 
path the Duchess of Montarlis had marked 
out and planted with rose trees. 







CHAPTER II. 



HARD ROADS. 




ATTHEW had had a good deal of 
experience in tutors, having been 
so wayward a pupil as to neces- 
sitate frequent change ; but he had never 
before been placed under a preceptor of 
Mr Wharton's type. In fact, life in Gower 
Street, where Mr Wharton lived, was so 
different from anything Matthew had ever 
seen before, that at first he seemed as it 
were paralysed. He was the only pupil re- 
siding in the house, though several young 
men of very free opinions came daily to 
read hard classics with the learned Wharton 
It will be suggested that Matthew had been 



20 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

at Oxford — consequently he must have been 
thrown into the society of men of every 
denomination and grade of character ; but 
Matthew had eschewed the companionship 
of those who did not indulge in his own 
peculiar tenets and views ; and they, form- 
ino- a set of their own, knew but little of the 
ways and thoughts of those who elected to 
pursue a more worldly course. 

The ideas and remarks then which fell 
quite naturally from the lips of his new as- 
sociates, filled Matthew's mind with terror, 
and made him at first feel even more un 
happy than he had done during the last few 
weeks while he had given himself up to the 
torturing conflicts of a mind ill at ease. If 
holy and reverend things had been scoffed 
at, Matthew would have been less aghast ; 
but to meet people who seriously and 
honestly believed in their non-existence was 
a new phase in human short-sightedness with 
which he had never as yet been brought 



Hard Roads. 2 1 



into personal contact. All the young men 
who read with Mr Wharton were energetic 
students (he would keep no others) qualifying 
themselves for what they trusted would prove 
brilliant careers of learning, while with no 
exception each one of them was searching 
diligently for truth under a master who, 
though he in no way sought to control their 
opinions, yet proved in occasional discus- 
sions that the temper of his own mind led 
him into the broad fields of much self- 
opiniation. 

Mr Wharton was a cheery little man with 
a stentorian voice and bluff manners — the 
very opposite of his friend Mr Sivewright, 
whose high breeding was completely lost on 
him ; in fact they did not seem to have any 
common meeting ground, except that of dis- 
tinguished intellectual endowments. As you 
looked at the rough ready style of the Gower 
Street interior, you could not help wondering 
how the luxury-loving Sivewright could toler- 



2 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

ate or recommend such a total absence of 
the civilising amenities and good things of 
life. Whereas Mr Sivewright's philosophy- 
gave him epicurean tendencies, that of Mr 
Wharton taught him to regard as wanton 
every indulgence that was not an absolute 
necessity. The living, though ample, was of 
the plainest. Indifferently cooked, coarsely 
served, and eaten hurriedly, because forsooth 
the short day left no time to be bestowed on 
consideration for the digestive organs. The 
furniture of the house was shabby and scant, 
carpets and fires being luxuries In which Mr 
Wharton himself Indulged but very moder- 
ately, though he was ready to provide them in 
all generosity to his pupils, his own disregard 
for comfortable details arising entirely from a 
want of taste for them, not in the least from 
a wish to air any outward exhibition of philo- 
sophical austerity. One room in the house 
seemed to have usurped for itself all the light ; 
this was where old Mrs Wharton, the tutor's 



Ha rd Roads. 2 3 



mother, sat day by day by the chimney corner. 
She was his sole surviving relation, and was 
very feeble and infirm, but her pleasant cheery 
old face shone out with humanising womanly 
softness from among the ponderous fusty 
tomes in which the house abounded — it glad- 
dened the philosopher's heart meanwhile, and 
gave him an interest and a joy in life which 
all his erudition and deep researches could 
never have afforded. 

To Matthew, old Mrs Wharton seemed 
like an angel sent by God to help him to 
endure ; true, she could not argue with him 
— poor aged body, she was long past that — 
even had she excelled in it in her time ; but 
Mrs Wharton had never aspired to being 
more than a genial kindly woman, who left 
cleverness to the men, and this she would 
remain to the end. It was no infrequent 
occurrence for Matthew to steal into Mrs 
Wharton's little parlour and spend half-an- 
hour chatting to the old lady, while he knelt 



24 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

on the hearth-rug warming himself before 
the fire ; then, and then only, did he seem to 
forget for a brief space the turmoils of life, 
and a strange picture was presented by this 
very young man kneeling at the feet of the 
octogenarian confidante, to whom, before he 
had been in Gower Street many days, he had 
told all the simple story of his love for pretty 
Claire. This was scarcely perhaps what 
either his mother or the Vicar of Fernwood 
had intended in sending him to London ; yet 
Mr Wharton did not interfere, he had sufficient 
scrutiny to discover at first sight that Mat- 
thew possessed one of these excitable im- 
pressionable temperaments which, without 
soothing womanly influence, would over- 
stretch itself, till guidance would be impos- 
sible ; he noticed that the boy was unhappy, 
and therefore allowed him to go his own way 
for a time without any interference from him. 
The fact was, Mr Wharton was a little 
puzzled by Matthew ; there were so many 



Hard Roads. 25 



contradictions in his nature, that when the 
master thought he had discovered a tiny point 
to work on, some new crotchet would arise 
and upset all his calculations. There was no 
want of cleverness about the youth, that, he 
was compelled to avow ; he was quick and 
sharp beyond the average, but had such a 
total incapability for classifying his ideas as 
to render a teacher perfectly hopeless. If he 
would only give up all idea of entering a 
learned profession, he might take a very 
fair position in life as an agreeable accom- 
plished member of society ; but make his 
way by his brains, except as far perhaps as 
writing an occasional brilliant article, startling 
the world with a thought or thoughts which 
he would not have the logic to sustain, — this 
was all Mr Wharton hoped for Matthew ; 
though his opinions being as yet very nascent, 
he had not judged it expedient to give them 
even to his friend Sivewright until he should 
have had more opportunity of maturing them. 



26 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

As far as religious views went, Mr Wharton 
had the honesty to decide that it were unwise 
and unkind to tamper with Matthew's faith. 

* He has not the grasp of mind which 
can find its level unaided ; moral philosophy- 
would be wholly insufficient to satisfy him. 
Men of his calibre invariably give themselves 
up entirely either to some formulated faith, 
or to the systematic pursuit of vice. His 
family may thank their stars that his pre- 
dilections have taken a pious turn. 

So reasoned this astute man of the world, 
who for the last five-and-twenty years had 
made developing youth the chief study of 
his life, and fortunate it was for Matthew 
that his arguments took this turn ; for the 
misery and unhappiness he would have 
endured, if subjected to a course of enforced 
abnegation of his religious opinions, would 
have been past all endurance. 

As it was, the training at Mr Wharton's 
was no useless one to Matthew. His tutor 



Hard Roads. 2 7 



was invariably Impressing on him the 
necessity and the possibility of bringing 
his Ideas under the yoke of work, — concen- 
tration of mind on any given subject even 
for an hour in the day being a difficulty 
which Matthew had never as yet been able 
to conquer. Now Mr Wharton, as he ap- 
peared to the outside world and to his 
pupils during the hours of recreation, was 
a genial, easy-going, and at the same time 
a highly intellectual man, whose conversation, 
though rough and to the point, was always 
replete with sarcastic humour, while never- 
theless it gave strong evidence of much 
good-heartedness, which he seemed to be 
making a perpetual effort to repress. In 
truth, simply to converse with Mr Wharton 
was no mean advantage, and one which 
many a young neophyte in philosophy would 
have accepted with avidity ; how far more 
grateful then were the pupils with whom he 
not only talked daily on all the multitudin- 



28 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

ous subjects which his extended knowledge 
embraced, but to whom he gave particular 
instruction on the various topics to which 
each one felt himself especially drawn ; indeed, 
all his young friends appreciated this to the 
fullest, save Matthew, who looked on Mr 
Wharton's teaching as a hard, cold, lifeless 
lesson. 

The young zealot was too bigoted to 
feel that there was any desirable object to 
be attained in the pursuit of knowledge for 
knowledge's sake ; he failed utterly to re- 
cognise any aim in enlarging the mental 
capabilities. The fields of philosophy were 
to him as a vast graceless desert ; the his- 
tory of antiquity, with its classical allusions, 
an utterly useless study, since it had no 
Bible relations ; and though he was com- 
pelled at times to listen to the conversation 
going on in Gower Street between master 
and pupils, it was always with a sort of 
protest at his heart. But though they might 



Hard Roads. 29 



accept the privilege or not as they pleased 
of conversing with him at other times, in 
the study Mr Wharton gave the young men 
under his charge no option, for a given 
number of hours they must work resolutely 
and determinedly — remembering that their 
entire future career depended on their exer- 
tions now — while he presided as autocrat, 
slurring over no faults and severely dealing 
with every inaccuracy, however slight. 

Thus then, as far as his mother and Mr 
Sivewright were concerned, things were 
going well with Matthew. He was learn- 
ing, slowly it is true, to adopt habits of 
thought, and he was certainly being trained 
out of the Church, if that were a desirable 
object ; for he was daily, nay hourly, be- 
coming more and more cognisant of the fact, 
that it was futile in him to hope to be a 
teacher of men, since it was obvious that 
most of his fellows had much more know- 
ledge than he had. Poor Matthew, it would 



30 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

indeed have proved bewildering to a stronger 
mind than his, this sudden plunging into 
a coterie of thinkers, who allowed themselves 
to be actuated by reason alone ; but, added to 
this, he was being initiated in the ways of 
London society — another terra incognita — 
under the auspices of Lord Beaurepaire and 
Lady Valentina, at whose house he had 
dined more than once since his arrival in 
town, not to speak of two little dinners at 
the Duchess of Montarlis, who seemed quite 
to have taken Matthew under her sheltering 
wing, and who evidently contemplated a 
little match-making, wholly ignoring the 
affair with Claire Bailey, doubtless at the 
instigation of Mrs Desborough. From 
every one with whom he came in contact, 
he heard Mr Wharton's praises chanted, ' he 
was so clever, so deeply read — Matthew 
was most fortunate in being placed with so 
able a man.' Thus ran the refrain, till 
Matthew, being influenced to a certain extent 



Hard Roads. 



by the old axiom that what everybody says 
must be true, began to accept Mr Wharton 
as the Socrates every one proclaimed him 
to be. Scarcely then, after the first week 
or two had passed, could he deem his life 
in Gower Street an unhappy one — it was 
too full of wholesome occupation for him 
to have much time to dwell on the dark 
fancies and scrupulous quibbles of church 
law and of faith, on which he had been for 
so long prone to dwell. Each hour, each 
section of an hour, there were presented to 
him fresh phases for his mental calculation 
of which he had never dreamed before, 
rushing with his thoughts, turning them 
from Lently and his school into, it is true, 
a sort of chaos, but a chaos from which 
Mr Wharton hoped he would attain a clearer, 
more prosaic view in life. 

Matthew's letters home at this juncture 
were short and scarcely explanatory of his 
feelings. He told of his doings in the world 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



of fashion, but little of his scholastic life, 
because forsooth that life was to himself 
an enigma which he was at present only 
seeking somewhat vaguely to guess. To 
Claire Bailey he had written but twice, and 
on each occasion very succiently. What 
could she understand of the feelings which 
were actuating him in his new life, and even 
if she could, what right had he to risk her 
clear undimmed faith, by exposing it to 
any contact, however remote, with the new 
phases of thought which had of late been 
presented to his notice? Such was his argu- 
ment, whenever he sat down to write, so he 
threw away his pen. 

Excitement Matthew loved, and excite- 
ment he found among the hard truths pro- 
pounded, though his fellow students, who 
had been tramping for years the highways 
of literature, would scarcely have suspected 
the amount of feverish agitation their dry- 
as-dust studies had aroused In his heart ; 



Hard Roads. 



but then they could not possibly guess that 
what was substantial food to them, food 
which from years of habit they had learned 
thoroughly to digest, came to Matthew as 
stranofe and unwholesome, even if he re- 
garded it as an alimentary substance at all. 

He had been three weeks in Gower Street 
— three weeks as far as faith was concerned 
spent in stumbling over huge blocks of 
reasoning and logic. During the latter por- 
tion of the time he had given up his attend- 
ance at daily service, not because Mr Whar- 
ton's hours of study interfered with the same, 
but because he found that amid the new ideas 
with which his mind was overstocked, there 
was no place for religious fervour. If ever a 
poor soul travailing in anguish needed a sym- 
pathising voice to cheer it, an understanding 
spirit to help it, Matthew's was that soul. 
Among all the witnesses of his perplexities 
there was not one who, holding out the right 
hand of fellowship, could say, ' I, too, have 

VOL. II. c 



34 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

passed through the same ordeal of suffering. 
I have felt your scruples, known your doubts, 
and see how I at last have landed on firm 
substantial ground.' 

The chief evil lay in that INIatthew's re- 
ligious start had been made under difficulties, 
seeing that he had no implicit belief in his 
great high priest, Mr Lently. Had this, his 
first instructor been more practical and less 
effusive in his treatment of spiritual things, 
he would have given his young highly im- 
aginative disciple a clearer Idea of duty, by 
leading him into its habitual practice, instead 
of tickling his senses by perpetual mystical 
revelations. 

Hard reading, self-application, restraint, 
a high moral tone, all this Matthew would 
doubtless learn at Mr Wharton's ; but the 
sympathising human voice which should strike 
a kindred chord in his mind — vacillating as it 
was from the very fervour with which it was 
filled — would not make itself heard in the 



Ha7'd Roads. 35 



Govver Street household. Happy the day 
for Matthew when it should be awakened, 
and pray God that naught may occur to 
still it, for, to quote an eighteenth century 
essayist, — 

' When two beings naturally allied meet, 
it may be regarded as the greatest blessing 
that can befall them in this world, for this 
similarity is so rare that, if overlooked in 
one, it may never be found in another.* 





CHAPTER III. 

A CONJUGAL TETE-A-TETE. 

R DESBOROUGH'S private 
room at Vantage Park is, as far 
as untidiness goes, a replica of 
Mr Lently's. He loves to pass his time 
among endless papers and old books, sorting, 
investigating, jotting down tangled points in 
art and archaeology ; nor does he like his pet 
companions to be touched by the ruthless 
hand of a barbarian, and he wages open war 
against feather brooms and dusters, never 
allowing his papers to be arranged, except 
about twice in the year, when, with Mat- 
thew's assistance, they undergo a regular 
sifting and straightening. He is deeply 



A Conjugal Tete-ct-Teie. 2>7 

engaged in the study of some old Syra- 
cusan rites, when his researches are inter- 
rupted by the entrance of his wife. He 
looks astonished ; she never, as a rule, 
invades his premises, having, as she 
invariably shows by her manner a per- 
fect contempt for what she calls his toy 
knowledge, her own erudition being 
directed in a very different channel. 

' Is anything the matter, my dear Min- 
nie ? ' he asks a little nervously as he 
pushes a chair towards her, and watches 
the almost set expression of her face. 

* It is provoking, Mr Desborough, that you 
cannot remain quietly in your own province, 
and leave me undisputed government in my 
part of the domestic territory,' she says 
rather doggedly, as she sits down in the 
arm-chair by the fire, and draws closely 
round her a large black shawl, in which she 
invariably wraps herself when desperately 
aggrieved. 



38 Sackcloth and B^'oadcloth, 

' I ? my dear Minnie. What have I done ? 
Nothing that I am aware of. I always leave 
you full sway,' and the squire of Vantage 
looks rather frightened. 

' You went yesterday afternoon to call on 
Lady Laura Bailey.' 

' Well, my love, I have called from time to 
time on Lady Laura, ever since she came to 
Swanover Cottage.' 

' I daresay you have, Mr Desborough, a 
great deal too often ; but that is not the case 
in point. You agreed that Matthew should 
be sent to London, in order to facilitate the 
breaking off of this silly engagement between 
him and Claire, and you yourself keep the 
flame alive by going there.' 

' I did not know you wished me to quarrel 
with Lady Laura, my love.' 

' I wish you to quarrel with Lady Laura ? 
Really you are too provoking. I don't care 
whether you quarrel with her or not ; but I 
think it is very ill-advised that you should 



A Conjugal Tele -a- Tele. 39 

call there just now, exactly as if you, in oppo- 
sition to me, wished to encourage the thing 
for Matthew.' 

' I can't see it,' said Mr Desborough 
meekly ; * I did not make love to Claire.' 

* Good gracious ! I should hope not, 
Richard. You must be mad to talk such 
nonsense ; anyone would think that you 
would have sufficient discernment to know 
that your calling at Swanover just now 
looks exactly as if you approved of the 
whole thing, and that mine was the only 
dissentient voice.' 

* Lady Laura is an old friend of mine. I 
did not think of the children's love-making. 
I am sure we never alluded to it.' 

* I daresay not ; you were probably too 
much taken up with yourselves.' 

Very unjust of Mrs Desborough was this 
remark. She could form strong male friend- 
ships for her own part, yet she grudged her 
husband his innocent little amitids defemme. 



40 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' It is fortunate if we were,' he answered 
with a smile, 'since it saved us from talk- 
ing on a forbidden subject. It occurs to me 
now, however, that Lady Laura was rather 
silent and preoccupied.' 

' Of course she has tact enough to see that 
your calling on her just now was a gross 
piece of masculine clumsiness. I should 
really have thought, Mr Desborough, after 
all the years you have been married to me, 
that you would have had a nicer perception 
of the fitness of things.' 

*Yes,' he said very quietly, 'it is odd I 
cannot see clearly at all times ; but then you 
get so much more kv^o^ for your perspicacity.' 

It was always rather difficult to know when 
Mr Desborough was in earnest, and when he 
was poking sly fun at his wife. 

' What nonsense you do talk ; but it is 
useless for me to say anything. If I had 
told you this morning not to go to Swan- 
over, you would only have argued the point 



A Conjugal Tete-a-Tete. 41 

and gone all the same. Men are so obstinate. 
I had a letter from Matthew this morning.' 
' Good news ? ' 

* Socially, he seems to be very well placed, 
if he only could get rid of those fanatical 
opinions which are the bugbear to his ad- 
vancement. He has been dining at Lord 
Beaurepaire's.' 

* Fine old fellow Beaurepaire. Kind of 
him to ask Matthew. I should not think he 
cared much for boys.' 

' Of course you disparage your own be- 
longings, Mr Desborough ; you always do. 
Matthew is perfectly fit to hold his own in 
any society. He is certainly not wanting 
in cleverness, though he is not a favourite 
of yours. I must beg that you will not in- 
sinuate to Lord Beaurepaire that Matthew 
is not eligible for his set. I have great 
hopes from the introduction.' 

' My dear Minnie, am I likely to see Lord 
Beaurepaire ? You are unusually severe in 



42 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

your remarks this morning. What has 
happened ? ' 

' I have been excessively annoyed for some 
days past ; anyone but yourself would have 
remarked It,' and Mrs Desborough held 
her handkerchief to her eyes for a minute, as 
though there were tears In them she wished 
to dry. ' We are living In the midst of a 
cabal, my dear Richard.' 

' Good gracious ! my love. You don't 
mean it ? No — ' 

* It is true, nevertheless, and it makes me 
very miserable.' 

' But what is it, Minnie ? I don't under- 
stand In the least.' 

' The future of both our sons is a subject 
of deep anxiety — deep, prayerful anxiety.' 

Now, Mr Desborough had heard this fact 
stated periodically for many years past ; the 
only part of the declaration that was new to 
him was the word cabal. He was curious 
to ascertain what tangle in the events of 



A Conjugal Tele-d-Tete. 43 

every-day life she had magnified into a 
cabal ; but he knew, from past experience, 
that to seem desirous of receiving informa- 
tion was the surest way to prevent him- 
self from obtaining it, so he only said 
quietly, — 

* They must qualify for their respective 
positions in the world, as their forefathers 
have had to do before them.' 

* Of course, Mr Desborough, that is all 
the interest you take in the welfare of your 
boys ; if all the adventuresses in Europe 
were to fight for them, you would only smile.' 

* My dear Minnie, you surely do not 
designate poor little Claire Bailey as an 
adventuress ? ' 

* Claire Bailey is a little fool. I am not 
referring to her in the very least. But you 
can think of nothing but Matthew, you quite 
ignore poor George.' 

She entirely forgot that, five minutes before, 
she had accused him of slighting Matthew. 



44 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

* George beset by an adventuress ? Why, 
he is becoming quite a hero of romance. 
Ever since that Dutch journey of his it 
has — ' 

* Exactly, that is it ; for once you are 
on the right track,' cried Mrs Desborough 
eagerly, interrupting him. ' Ever since that 
Dutch journey our poor George has not 
been like the same man — since that horrid 
little woman bewitched him, in fact' 

' You don't mean Mrs Tremayne ? Why, 
only a few days ago you declared her to be 
so very charming ! ' 

* What a happy knack you have of re- 
minding one of mistakes,' she said angrily. 

' A mistake, was it ? So Mrs Tremayne 
is a mistake ? ' 

It must be allowed that Mr Desborough's 
manner and remarks were most irritating ; 
but he knew so well that by the spur thus 
slightly but perpetually administered would 
he alone arrive at the gist of her story, 



A Conjugal Tcte-ct-Tete. 45 

that he had no compunction at the in- 
fliction. 

' She is a vile, designing, good-for-nothing 
little woman.' 

Mr Desborough drew a long breath. 

' And the duchess ? ' he asked. 

* Oh, I suppose the duchess has been im- 
posed on like the rest. It is time her eyes 
were opened.' 

' Perhaps you have been misinformed. It 
is a serious thing to malign a woman's re- 
putation. It were wise to be careful, Minnie.' 
And Mr Desborough began to turn his papers 
over as though he regarded the whole affair 
in the light of an old wife's tale, and would 
fain be done with it. Mrs Desborough's 
next remark, however, made him look round. 

* Mr Sivewright does not generally speak 
about what he does not know for certain.' 

' Sivewright ? ' 

*Yes. He told me yesterday — in strict 
secrecy, of course.' 



4t) Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Told you what ? ' 

' That he beHeves Mrs Tremayne's object 
is to marry George.' 

' Is that all ? I suspect It is the object of 
a good many women to marry George, since 
he is the heir to a good estate,' said his 
father laughing. ' I should not trouble my- 
self about that if I were you. George is 
very capable of taking care of himself 

' Of course you have never noticed that 
George has been quite hipped and low ever 
since that balloon affair.' 

' No wonder, it was a stupid business. I 
am not surprised he is ashamed of it — setting 
the whole county talking for the sake of 
such folly.' 

' Condemning your own flesh and blood 
again as usual ; and that brazen minx who 
induced him to go — you say nothing about her.' 
* I think they both behaved like silly 
children,' answered ]\Ir Desborough ; 'farther 
than that, there is not much to say.' 



A ConJ2cgal Tete-ct-Tete. 47 

' Do you wish George to marry Mrs 
Tremayne?' asked Mrs Desborough very 
petulantly. 

The squire shrugged his shoulders. 

' I think it would be wiser if both George 
and Matthew put off all thought of marrying 
for the next ten years ; but Mrs Tremayne 
is a nice lively little woman. I do not, how- 
ever, imagine he has any serious intentions.' 

' Nice merry little woman ! a thorough 
man's verdict. I tell you she is an adven- 
turess, and is not fit to be in our society 
at all.' 

^ Only last week you thought her a piece 
of perfection, my love.' 

' You know, Richard, I have been quite 
ddsillusionde about Mrs Tremayne ever since 
the balloon business, and now I know that 
she is thoroughly good for nothing. I am 
utterly puzzled how to act. I don't dare 
speak to the duchess, and yet for George's 
sake — ' 



48 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Mr Desborough left off sorting his papers, 
wheeled his chair right round, and confronted 
his wife. 

' My dear Minnie, you do not really 
seriously mean that you attach any import- 
ance to this gossip.' 

' Mr Sivewright does not usually indulge in 
idle words,' she answered, pursing up her lips. 

' And he advises — ' 

' He advises nothing — he only warns 
against Mrs Tremayne's machinations.' 

' Well, she is in London, perhaps she will 
stay there, and George is at Bicester. There 
is no immediate danger.' 

* Oh, if you are going to take the thing in 
spirit, I must call some one else into my 
counsels. Consult Mr Sivewright, in fact,' 
and Mrs Desborough got up and looked 
magnificent. 

Perhaps she only wanted an excuse to 
abide by the Rev. Lawrence's judgment. 
Conscience prompted that her husband was 



A Conjugal Tete-d-Tete, 49 

the first person who ought to be appealed to 
in family matters ; but of course if he did 
not perceive that there was any cause for 
alarm or action, she had done her duty in 
warning him, and it was his fault if the 
course she elected to follow was the result 
of extraneous influence. And Mr Des- 
borough was nothing loth to be left with 
his old papers and researches. Perfect 
peace was all he craved ; he was very idle 
and procrastinating about practical matters. 
It was not at all part of his system of life to 
look a-head for troubles which might never 
arrive, and in this light he viewed the sup- 
posed imbroglio between George and Mrs 
Tremayne. 

' Well, my dear, I daresay Sivewright will 
be better able to advise in the matter than I 
am. He is a safe man — will not let you get 
into any trouble about character and all that 
sort of thing. Do be careful, my love ; you 
know there is nothing I hate like a county 

VOL. II. D 



50 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

spar, and the duke is sure to take it up if 
you asperse Mrs Tremayne.' 

* The duke ! ' and with a toss, signify- 
ing the most supreme contempt, Mrs Des- 
borough flounced out of the room, holding her 
shawl very tightly round her neck as she 
crossed the corridor which led from Mr Des- 
borough's sitting-room to her own sanctum. 
There she sat down, and dropping the high 
tone she had assumed in her husband's pres- 
ence she looked very dismal and out of spirits. 
Both her sons were away, which was a fact 
in which Mrs Desborough did not rejoice. 
She loved to hear the sound of male voices 
in the house, and furthermore, about neither 
of them did she feel particularly happy. 

Probably she magnified the grievance from 
the reason that to the heart of Mrs Des- 
borough a grievance was dear — hers was a 
nature that required a certain amount of 
excitement to cherish it, and whether the 
excitement came in a pleasurable or a ques- 



A Conjugal Tete-d-Tete, 51 

tlonable form, it was equally welcome since 
it gave her an object for movement. 

Mr Sivewright, during a visit he had paid 
her three or four days before, had casually 
asked her if there were any flirtations afoot 
between George and Mrs Tremayne, observ- 
ing as he did so that the widow was 
slightly flighty. No more had the rev. 
gentleman averred ; he was a safe man, as the 
squire had remarked. He guessed, more- 
over, in all probability how his meaning 
would be enhanced, his words embroidered, 
till out of nothing would grow the thing of 
magnitude he perhaps desired to see. If 
such were his intention, it had succeeded 
beyond his desires, for in three days Mrs 
Desborough had worked herself into a per- 
fect fever about the man-trap which had been 
set for poor George by that good-for-nothing 
little woman — a fever which Mr Desborough's 
cooling draught had in no wise allayed. 

Since that afternoon the vicar had not 



^^^^ ^,r.^yy^^^ 



iVBHH^^^V-^ (\c 



AO\^ 



52 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

seen her, whether accldently or Intentionally 
was best known to himself. But his absence 
at this crisis was to be borne no longer ; If 
she had not some one with whom she could 
converse, and who would understand her, 
Mrs Desborough felt she should succumb to 
a violent attack of nerves, so she sent the 
vicar a note requesting him to come to 
her Immediately ; and then trying to assume 
an air of composure she by no means felt, 
she sat down In the corner of the sofa with 
her never-falling knitting, and tried as a 
duty to be patient. Mrs Desborough's con- 
fusion of ideas on the subject of duty 
rendered it rather difficult to obtain from 
her any practical definition of its require- 
ments. 



CHAPTER IV. 



EQUIPPED FOR CONQUEST. 




iOMB the curls out into quite thin 
bits of hair till they look frizzly 
— it is more becoming ; then 
another rosebud on this side — that will do ; 
now I am perfectly coiff^e. Felix himself 
could not beat it. I must say, Amandine, 
you are the queen of lady's maids, you 
shall have my pink silk dress before it is 
quite in rags. You can go to the Bal de 
rOpera in it next time you are in Paris. 
Heigho ! I should not much mind going to 
the Bal de I'Opera myself.' 

' You, madame ? Why you are going to 
a much more recherchd ball to-night.' 



54 Sackcloth a7id B^'oadcloth. 

' Recherchd, Amandine, that I don't doubt ; 
but not buoyant and gay — that is what I like. 
There is no entrain about these lordly English 
assemblies, and they bore me to distraction.' 

' Pourqtwi y allez ? ' asked the French- 
woman sententiously. 

' Because it is distinguished and chic, and 
perhaps — Well, never mind the perhaps, 
go and get me a glass of champagne after 
all this toilette labour, I'll eat no dinner, 
ril rest for half-an-hour before I put on 
my dress ; there is oceans of time.' 

And Violet Tremayne — for who but she 
among our dr^amatis personcs would take life 
thus, au grand galop — sat down in her pretty 
blue satin dressing-gown with its lace fur- 
belows, and looked at the fire. Well might 
she send her maid for champagne, in order 
to give her a little fictitious courage, for 
she felt very down-hearted as she thought 
of how much to her individually depended 
on the luck with which she should throw 



Equipped for Conquest. 55 

the dice that night. She had played for 
many a high stake In her time, and her hand 
had never trembled nor her brain reeled ; 
but she was about to throw to-night for 
the highest prize as yet presented in her 
life-lottery — even for Lord Beaurepaire him- 
self. And yet in the outside pocket of her 
dainty robe her hand could touch an epistle 
received but that morning from George Des- 
borough, in which he rejoiced that * three 
weary months of waiting were well-nigh over 
— only three more and he looked forward to 
presenting her to his family as his promised 
bride. Of course he should run up to town 
for the Beaurepaire ball, when he hoped she 
would give him all the round dances. Surely 
the world had long since forgotten about 
that balloon adventure/ 

' All the round dances,' Violet murmured 
to herself with a smile. ' George has evi- 
dently ceased to remember what the exigen- 
cies of good society demand. All the round 



56 Sackcloth a7id Broadcloth. 

dances — he must be reminded that is a 
sort of thing that is only done — ' and she 
laughed. ' Well, in the dear old merry 
world, where people please themselves and 
not their neighbours — George never belonged 
to it, nor Matthew, nor Lord Beaurepaire for 
the matter of that. I do like Bohemia best ; 
there is no gainsaying the matter. Black 
Vandyke clothes, a red tie and a Tyrolese 
hat, dirt and all, for they don't waste much 
on soap, those dear old witty Bohemians ; 
but they are far above these quiet-mannered, 
soberly-attired landowners. Yet one must 
have money, and there is not a ten-pound 
note in all Bohemia. The light-hearted 
darlings, they would not know how to keep 
one if they had it. No bottoms to Bohe- 
mian pockets, everything goes straight 
through. So it is hey for Lord Beaure- 
paire — only George is a nuisance. Why 
can he not stop at Bicester .^ I am sure 
his hunters will get ill for want of exercise. 



Equipped f 07^ Conqzcest. 57 

Just when I had persuaded the Beaurepaires 
into giving this ball — to think of his turning 
up three months before the time. Well, 
I can only hope my woman's wit will not 
desert me. That is right, Amandine, give 
me some fizz, and stir up the fire. Life 
wants encouragement when a swell's ball is 
in prospect. Don't you think I shall look 
rather like Flora to-night with those showers 
of rosebuds all over that white tulle ? ' 

^ Mais madame^ cest parfait. No dress 
chez mi lor, to-night, will surpass madame's.' 

* Not in costliness, I daresay. I wonder, 
Amandine, whether it will ever get paid for ?' 

' For the pleasure to see madame look so 
gentille, many a conturiere would forget her 
bill' 

* Oh, Amandine, you horrible little flatterer. 
It really is a pretty dress though, and if it 
does its work effectually to-night, Fll pay for it 
next week, instead of giving you your wages.' 

' Comme madame sa^nuse d plaisanter.' 



58 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Well, you get enough out of my ward- 
robe to keep a starving family. I can't 
think how you dare expect money besides, 
you avaricious little thing ; but all right, 
I won't forget you. Drink some fizz to 
keep your spirits up, and then a la toilette 
— dress me as you never dressed me before.' 

Amandine was accustomed to Mrs Tre- 
mayne's noisy rattling ways, and probably 
liked her all the better for them, for she 
"vvas very devoted to her mistress. She set to 
work then in playful earnest, and at the end 
of half-an-hour, thanks to Amandine's clever 
knowledge of the numberless details necessary 
to form an artistic whole, Violet Tremayne 
was faultlessly equipped for conquest. 

' If only George would not come,' and 
w^ith these words she went downstairs and 
got into the duchess's carriage, which had 
been sent for her. 

Arrived in Belgrave Square, she had 
ample space to shake out her gauzy skirts 



Equipped for Conquest. 59 

as she went up the staircase, for but few 
guests had as yet arrived. At the door of 
the ball-room she was met with cold dignity 
by Lady Valentina. The regal - looking 
daughter of the house did not altogether 
approve of Mrs Tremayne — perhaps she had 
a vague fear of mischief in the future as she 
looked at her, perhaps she owed her just 
as much of a grudge as a cold nature could 
be excited into bestowing for having per- 
suaded Lord Beaurepaire into giving this 
entertainment, for Lady Valentina's sake, as 
she had suggested. That young lady by 
no means echoed the desire for a dance ; 
she hated the even current of her life to 
be ruffled, * and a dance in London in 
November was/ she argued, 'such an utter 
anomaly, that their friends would think they 
were bereft of reason. It was very well 
for the Montarlises — there had been a wed- 
ding as an excuse ; but why for no reason 
go out of the natural course of events ? ' 



6o Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

But if Lady Valentina's manner to Violet 
was only frigidly civil, Lord Beaurepaire's 
fully compensated for his daughter's absence 
of warmth. He looked at her with admira- 
tion in his gaze, assured her that she was 
the queen of the fete, and in fact made so 
much of her that the little woman's head ran 
such a chance of being turned, that any 
amount of wild vagaries might be expected 
in the future. By the time the Duchess of 
Montarlis had arrived, for whom the car- 
riage had returned after setting Violet 
down, she was already in full flight as Lady 
Beaurepaire, soaring in imagination above 
the mere vulgar denizens of earth. She 
looked round the room on the very chosen 
society which formed Lady Valentina's 
coterie, and impertinently wondered how 
she should weed it. No easy matter, since 
everyone was incontrovertibly 'hall-marked,' 
as far as birth and position went. 

'Disagreeable people; nasty wrinkled hags 



Equipped for Conqttest. 6i 

in ddcollettd dresses and turbans. These are 
the people who shall not come to my parties. 
I can't afford to be uncivil to them on ac- 
count of their respectability now ; but then 
— oh, then — I may ask Cheap Jack to 
dinner, and invite the whole of the Lion 
Theatre to a banquet, and no one will 
say, "■ How odd." That is the advantage 
of marrying a swell' 

' There are a good many, I should think ; 
but what is the especial one ? ' asked a mas- 
culine voice behind her, for Violet had in- 
advertently uttered the last part of this 
sentence aloud. 

' That you can cut fools and snobs,' she 
answered laughing. ' What a good thing 
you broke in on my meditations. I had no 
idea I was thinking aloud.' 

' It is my fault you were thinking at all. 
This is my dance, I believe.' 

Another minute and the gay little widow 
was whirling round with a scion of nobility 



62 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

richer in pedigree than brains, when on a 
sudden she caught sight of Matthew Des- 
borough's face, as he stood leaning against 
the mantelpiece watching the giddy throng ; 
of it, but not in it, to judge from the 
thoughtfulness of his expression. Seeing 
him recalled George, of whose very exist- 
ence Violet had been quite oblivious during 
the last hour. She stopped her partner 
near the fire-place, and began to look about 
her. 

' George has not come yet, or he would 
have ferreted me out by this time,' 
she thought, and she held out her hand 
to Matthew. 

' How do you do ? Any of your people 
here to-niorht ? ' 

* No,' said Matthew. ' George wrote that 
he was coming, but I have not seen him. 
Odd, as he is generally reliable about ap- 
pointments, and he begged me be sure and 
meet him here.' 



Equipped for Conquest. 63 

* It isn't late,' said Violet ; ' he may come 
yet.' 

'Just twelve. I am sure he intended to 
be here before this.' 

' Dining out probably,' answered Violet, 
as she whisked away with her partner once 
more, and after taking- two or three turns, 
stopped this time close to Lord Beaurepaire. 
George was not coming, or at least was 
unpardonably late ; he could not expect her 
to wear the willow for the whole evening 
on account of his non-appearance ; on the 
contrary, she was not quite sure whether 
she would speak civilly to him when he did 
come. If he intended to treat her to 
cavalier airs, he must learn that it was a 
game two could play at. So had reasoned 
Violet as she waltzed, and the bright smile 
she gave Lord Beaurepaire when she stopped 
was but putting her theory into practice. 

* Such a delightful ball. I do enjoy it so 
much,' she said. 



64 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' It gives me immense pleasure to see 
you so happy,' and the courteous old noble- 
man's voice fell almost to a whisper as he 
uttered these vi^ords, glancing meanwhile 
across the room at his superb daughter, and 
perhaps for the first time in his life feeling 
that he should be glad if there were more 
dash and entrain in her manner ; if she were 
more like the lovely Violet in fact. The 
music ceased, thus setting Violet to a cer- 
tain extent free from her partner, from 
whom she intended to get thoroughly rid, 
if it were possible, at once, so she began a 
sentence. 

' I wanted so much to ask you, Lord 
Beaurepaire — ' and then she looked round as 
if there were a little secret involved in the 
query. ' Never mind — another time. Per- 
haps it will scarcely do just now — ' 

' May I take you down to have some 
refreshment ? ' 

Her partner made his bow. He had not 



Equipped for Conquest. 65 

exactly heard Violet's sotto voce sentence, 
but he saw there was some mystery between 
Mrs Tremayne and her noble host, in which 
he was not intended to participate, so he 
wisely decided to leave them ; and Violet, 
her little head proudly erect, went down 
the staircase on Lord Beaurepaire's arm, 
looking at every lady she met as though 
she expected them to do her homage for 
the proud position in which she felt herself 
to be placed, and perhaps a little disap- 
pointed that no one even looked surprised. 
He took her into the dining-room, seated 
her in a comfortable arm-chair in a corner, 
and gave her an ice. Then he asked what 
the mysterious matter was on which she 
wished to consult him. 

' I want to know whether — ' and she 
looked demurely down and played with 
her spoon — ' I want to know whether you 
and Lady Valentina would come to dinner 
some evening in my little house/ 

VOL. II. E 



66 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Lord Beaurepaire stood gazing at her 
for a second or two without answering. 
Nothing would give him greater pleasure. 
But Valentina — he felt that Valentlna would 
decline to go. . 

* No, of course you will not come. It 
was presumptuous of me to ask such a 
thing,' cried Violet, starting up as she 
marked the momentary pause. 'Don't think 
of it again, please, or you will make me 
quite uncomfortable at having committed 
2l gaucherie.' 

* My dear lady, pray do not misconstrue 
my meaning. I shall be only too delighted 
to dine with you, and so I am sure will 
Valentina. She must go if I desire it,' he 
mentally added. 

' You are always so good and kind,' 
murmured Violet ; ' but of course Lady 
Valentina never goes to such small houses 
as mine. We had better say no more 
about it.' 



Equippea Jor Co7iquest. 67 

Lord Beaurepaire felt that to allow this 
was to argue Valentina a snob, and yet what 
could he say. He was so certain that she 
would rebel against his authority In the 
matter of going to Mrs Tremayne, who, she 
instinctively felt, was not one of them, and 
should not therefore be received on equal 
terms. 

* Are you not going to Montarlis with the 
duchess ? ' he asked. ' She tells me they 
are all going back the day after to-morrow. 
She has kindly Invited Valentina and myself 
to spend Christmas with them.' 

Violet's eyes beamed with satisfaction. 

' How delightful. I am going down next 
week — not with the duchess. I have a little 
business I must attend to in London. Dear 
Julia must do without me for a while ; 
but of course I shall be there for Christ- 
mas. Montarlis is a second home to me — 
so kind of them — for mine is lonely enough.' 

* It scarcely need be lonely, save at your 



68 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

own will,' answered Lord Beaurepaire, a little 
pointedly Violet thought. 

She did not venture on any remark, save 
a half suppressed ' Ah ! ' and his lordship evi- 
dently decided that he had said enough for the 
present, for he took her plate, and then gave 
her his arm to go back to the ball-room. 
Arrived in the hall, they met the duchess 
with Matthew Desborough, both hurrying 
along, the duchess rather in front of her 
companion, more as though they were rush- 
ing to catch a train, than merely going 
down to a ball buffet ; moreover, there 
was a startled look on both their faces, 
which made Lord Beaurepaire stop as he 
noted it. 

' I am looking for the duke. Have you 
seen him ? ' 

* He is in the supper-room, I think ; but, 
my dear duchess, what is the matter ? ' 

* There has been an accident to the four 
o'clock express on the Great Western.' 



Equipped for Conquest. 69 

' And— ' 

* George Desborough was to come up by 
that train.' 

Mrs Tremayne's hand trembled on Lord 
Beaurepaire's arm. 

* What have you heard ? ' she asked 
nervously. 

' Nothing ; but he is not here. I want 
Montarlis to go with Matthew, and find out 
if possible whether anything has happened 
to him.' 

' Oh ! I hope — ' and then she stopped. 
What did she hope ? 

Lord Beaurepaire expressed a regret at 
their anxiety, and a belief that all would be 
well — he did not personally know George 
Desborough, who had been invited as 
Matthew's brother — and then they all went 
into the supper-room together, where they 
found the duke, who at once agreed to 
accompany Matthew in his quest for George. 

Mrs Tremayne touched the duchess on 



70 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

the arm. ' Let us go home, JuHa,' and she 
looked ghastly white. 

* My gracious, child, you don't mean that 
you — ' 

' No, no, no, don't question me ; but It Is 
a horrible thing, like a presage of evil, and 
I feel upset.' 




CHAPTER V. 



•grim death. 




EORGE DESBOROUGH is 
dead ! Killed in a railway ac- 
cident on his journey up from 
Bicester to Lord Beaurepaire's ball/ 

Such was the sad news that was re- 
peated and discussed at every breakfast-table 
among the set who knew him, as the morn- 
ing papers were opened on the day succeed- 
ing the ball. And who among those who had 
assisted at the fete of the previous evening 
did not feel at least shocked and startled, 
even if George Desborough's sudden death 
produced no deeper feeling ? 

' He was so bright, so genial, so full of 



72 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

life and spirits, to be cut off thus in the 
very morning of his days, was indeed a trial 
to his relations. Matthew — why, of course, 
Matthew would now be the heir. How 
strangely things happen in human affairs. 
Fancy Matthew the heir of Vantage. He 
was not a bit like a squire ; never fired a 
gun or rode to hounds in his life. George 
would indeed be a loss to the whole county.' 

Thus tattled the outside world, touching 
but with light breath the awfulness of poor 
George's unexpected summons Into eternity, 
and then prattling over Matthew's succes- 
sion as though It were a mere question of 
an old or new garment. 

Violet Tremayne had gone home with 
the duchess to watch till tidings should come 
of the result of the duke's and Matthew's 
quest. She never spoke or moved when 
the message arrived that they had both 
gone down the line, but that the report was 
George was killed. 



Grim Death! 73 



* Poor, bright, merry George. Oh, Violet, 
I am so sorry for Mrs Desborough,' said 
the duchess very feehngly. ' I will go off to 
Vantage by the first train in the morning ; 
but Violet did not answer, she only sat 
lookinof at the fire in the duchess's boudoin 
where they both were, her ringlets, tangled 
and curl-less, her dress crumpled, the rose- 
buds crushed, a very different looking Violet 
to the one who had started in the zenith of 
her fascinations only a few hours ago. 

' If only George would not come.' 
The words rang again and again in her 
ears, as she sat there horror-stricken. It 
seemed to her over-wrought mind as though 
George had died for her, obeying her be- 
hests with faithful scrupulousness. 

* I was very fond of George Desborough,' 
went on the duchess ; ' he was always so 
pleasant and ready to make himself useful. 
Do you know, Violet, I had hoped you would 
marry George.* 



74 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Still no answer from Mrs Tremayne, who 
only shivered, and shut her eyes as she laid 
her head against the side of the arm-chair 
on which she was sitting. 

* My gracious, child ! how ill you look. 
It cannot be that — ' 

And the duchess looked keenly at Violet, 
as a new light seemed to dawn on her. 

' Don't question me, please ; do leave me 
alone,' muttered Violet at last, the words 
coming out very slowly from between her 
blue pinched lips. She could have answered 
then as truthfully as when she questioned 
herself a few weeks ago, — ' Did she love 
George Desborough ? No, no, no.' But 
her conscience was upbraiding her for her 
treatment of him in act and thought, and 
who so severe a taskmaster as one's own 
conscience ? Violet had never shown her- 
self capable of feeling an honest, lasting 
love ; but she was vividly impressionable, 
and the sense of startled horror which was 



Grim Death' 75 



upon her now, was almost more than she 
could endure. She did not wish to discuss 
it, only desired to sit in a sort of stony 
silence, contemplating the ghastly picture of 
George Desborough, as she seemed to see 
him, lying mangled amid the mixed masses 
of incongruous odds and ends ejected from 
that fatal train. Who but one possessing a 
heart of stone could have thought of George, 
as she was forcibly reminded of him, tenderly 
caring for her every weakness during that 
foolhardy balloon ascent, and not have re- 
gretted his hapless fate ? Thus Violet was 
more taken aback by what had happened 
to George, than she had ever been in all 
her life before. The duchess was indeed 
astonished — she herself was full of sincere 
regrets ; but for Violet's horrified look she 
could in no way account. Full of mis- 
takes and egregious folly as was Violet 
Tremayne's life, would not the unfeigned 
sorrow she had shown over George Des- 



76 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

borough's untimely end score one for her 
to the good when the reckoning came ? 

Since Violet refused to speak, the duchess 
walked away Into her dressing-room. There 
she took off her evening finery, put on a 
comfortable flannel wrapper, and sent the 
maid to bed, with orders to come early and 
pack up a few things, as she meant to be 
off to Montarlls, and from thence to Vantage. 
Then she wondered when the duke would 
be back ; thought how cold and miserable he 
would be, and more than half regretted she 
had let him go. It was very awful about 
poor George ; but then of course the duke 
came first to her. How it befel that Violet, 
who usually shook away every supposition 
of feeling, should take his death, horrible 
though It was, so fearfully to heart, she 
could not Imagine. Yet when she went 
back Into the boudoir, there sat Violet In 
the same attitude, looking such a chiffonde 
wreck of pleasure, and such a dashed spirit- 



Grim Death' 'jj 



less beauty, as a painter might have taken for 
the reversed picture of some bright carousal. 

* My dear Violet, this is maudlin and 
foolish ; brighten up for goodness' sake, and 
let us chat, or I shall have the horrors. 
What are you thinking of ? ' 

Violet, thus appealed to, roused herself 
with a tremendous effort. 

' I don't know ; it is all so dreadful. I 
was so jolly to-night, and George — ' she 
left off as suddenly as she had begun, and 
ended her sentence in such a frantic fit of 
laughter as quite to startle the duchess, 
who rang the bell furiously to recall the maid. 

Violet was in strong hysterics. 

' Poor girl ; she has danced herself nearly 
to death. And then these ghastly tidings ! ' 
explained the duchess, as she helped to take 
off her finery, though secretly she imagined 
there must be some deeper reason for Mrs 
Tremayne's unaccountable display of feel- 
ing. In a few minutes they had undressed 



78 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



her, and, having given her a calming potion, 
persuaded her to go to bed ; but all through 
the small grey hours she lay as one stupe- 
fied, by her occasional sobs showing that, 
although she was quieted by the draught, 
sleep refused to visit her excited brain. 
The duchess watched In utter astonishment 
till daylight came, and with the sounds of 
busy life once more awakening the echoes, 
another message arrived from the duke. 
' They had seen poor George, and all was 
over ; he should arrive with Matthew in an 
hour or two. God grant his telegram would 
reach Mrs Desborough before she saw the 
papers.' 

Yes, this was the one thought that filled 
Matthew's heart with dread, as he stood be- 
side his dead brother. His mother — what 
would his mother say ? He instinctively 
felt that George was her favourite son ; that 
she had learned to lean on his strong sup- 
porting character, while Matthew's vacillating 



Grim Death' 79 



morbid tendencies only filled her mind with 
anxiety. He knew it all too well, and he 
trembled at the knowledge, fearing the re- 
sponsibility of being an only child, as only 
one of Matthew's temperament would fear 
it. That he would inherit the broad acres 
of Vantage Park flashed across his mind 
like an evil dream, and the vision increased 
his terror tenfold. 

What did he want with gold and pos- 
sessions and dependants — as it was it was 
impossible to him to control satisfactorily his 
own actions ; as an individual of greater 
magnitude, would not the difficulty be 
enhanced beyond endurance. But he re- 
fused to give way to these thoughts as yet ; 
the one picture his mind dwelt on was that 
of his broken-hearted mother, wailing in 
inconsolable lamentations over the fate of 
her first-born. 

And so Matthew came back to London to 
await the arrival of his father, or instructions 



8o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

how he was to act, and to see the duke and 
duchess start for Montarlis, on their kind mis- 
sion to soothe if possible Mrs Desborough's 
sufferings. 

Then Lord Beaurepaire came and carried 
Matthew off to Belgrave Square ; he could 
not stay all alone in the duke's house, and 
to eo back to his tutor's, under the circum- 
stances, was not to be heard of. Thus, in the 
course of a few short hours, a heavy stroke 
had fallen, and the issues of a good many 
lives had changed. 

Violet heard that Lord Beaurepaire was in 
the house, and the intelligence roused her for 
the first time. She could not see him, she 
was too generally upset ; but she got up and 
dressed herself, Amandine having arrived 
with a morning toilette, and she resolved to 
return to her little house and wait there 
quietly till this horrible tragedy should have 
played itself out, and a less mournful series 
of events have begun its reign. She looked 



Grim Death! 8i 



so white and ghastly when she said 'good- 
bye,' that the duchess scarcely liked leaving 
her alone, and tried to persuade her to 
accompany her, but Violet shook her head. 

* I am much better quiet and alone. I do 
not feel well. My nerves have had a horrible 
shock.' 

It was the first time she had ever refused 
an invitation to Montarlis, and the duchess 
was amazed accordingly. The fact was, 
Violet felt she could not stand questioning 
eyes and lips — that if she would guard 
her secret she must remain alone with it. 
Above all people, she felt she dare not risk 
a meeting with Mr Sivewright, which she 
could not avoid if she went into the country 
at that moment. 

The weary days of mourning slowly 
dragged on. Neither the squire nor Mrs 
Desborough came to town, for poor George 
was to be buried in Fernwood churchyard 
— they would wait at Vantage to receive the 

VOL. II. F 



82 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

dead body of the son who only a few weeks 
ago had left them so full of life and vigour. 
Matthew was to accompany it, and begin 
from henceforth his new career of only child 
and heir. But * rhomme propose Dieu dis- 
pose! Before the sad time arrived Matthew, 
whose constitution had but little vigour and 
strength, was stricken down by illness, and 
when the day came for George's funeral he 
was lying unconscious at Lord Beaurepalre's, 
while every precaution was being taken to 
guard him from all sounds of outward life 
and turmoil. Not that Matthew's state was 
exactly a critical one, — he had always been 
more or less delicate, and the exciting epi- 
sode of the last few days had so shattered 
him that it would take some time to rally 
from the evil effects. In no house could 
Matthew have fallen better than In that of 
the kindly old peer, who had offered him 
a temporary home, while Lady Valentlna's 
efforts to make herself useful, and the extra- 



Gri7n Death! 83 



ordinary amount of sympathy she had shown 
throughout all the trying circumstances, were 
the wonder of every one who happened to 
have the opportunity of observing them. 
Lady Valentlna sympathetic ! Who would 
have given her credit for the capability — • 
certainly not the duchess ; yet had she re- 
mained In London she could not have 
helped noticing how the great lady was set 
aside, and the woman shone forth, as Lady 
Valentlna seemed to take a pleasure In per- 
forming kindly offices for Matthew. Especi- 
ally when, the worst symptoms of his malady 
being past, the doctors expressed their 
opinion that the patient required nothing 
but amusement judiciously administered, In 
order to produce convalescence. Then did 
Lady Valentlna redouble her efforts, so as 
to make the little drawing-room which had 
been given up to the Invalid shine with 
light and brightness, herself casting off much 
of her habitual coldness, as she brought Into 



84 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

play those powers of conversation in which 
she was by no means wanting, talking, 
when she chose to talk very far above the 
average, owing to the strict course of reading 
to which she daily subjected herself. Lady 
Valentina's life was one of rule and rote, 
governed by a system which extended itself 
to her mind, and thus rendered her much 
clearer and more logical in her arguments 
and definitions than any woman whom Mat- 
thew had yet met, even including his mother, 
who had till then been Matthew's beau-ideal 
of feminine cleverness. 

As he lay on the sofa listening to Valen- 
tina's talk, he for a while forgot all the 
vicissitudes through which he had lately 
passed, all the trouble and difficulty through 
which he had yet to struggle. This was 
exactly what she desired. To strengthen his 
mind by amusing It, and thus render it 
capable of warfare, was the noble Valentina's 
object. 



Grwt Death.' 85 



She devoted herself ceaselessly to Mat- 
thew. Strange that, during their many t^te- 
d'tetes, Matthew never once alluded to Claire 
Bailey, and yet she had formed the sole 
subject of his conversation whenever he had 
been alone with old Mrs Wharton. Perhaps 
he thought this new companion with whom 
chance had so persistently thrown him for 
a while, was of too cold a nature to listen 
patiently to a love tale, or perhaps he 
thought it an insult to a young and beautiful 
woman to entertain her with an account of 
the worship in which he had prostrated him- 
self at the shrine of another beauty. Be his 
reason known, or probably unknown to him- 
self — for Matthew's actions were seldom the 
result of motive — Claire Bailey's name was 
never mentioned. 

Two weeks of very pleasant, calming days 
passed away, when suddenly, as he lay awake 
one night, the feeling came strongly upon 
him that he must go to Vantage, to begin 



86 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

forthwith the duties that fate had sent him 

to perform. Claire too — he had been very 

remiss to Claire — two tender loving letters 

lay unanswered in his pocket ; but then he 

had been too ill to write, and even Claire 

could scarcely expect letters at such a time ; 

but now he was strong again, he must bid 

farewell to the reposeful paradise In which 

he had felt such a sense of safety of late, 

and must embark once more on the sea of 

duty. From wakefulness his state passed to 

restlessness, and tossing about for hours 

magnifying every trouble, every vexation, 

every detail. By morning Matthew's cheeks 

were flushed with fever, and when he joined 

Lord Beaurepaire and Lady Valentina at 

breakfast, which, for the first time since his 

illness, he had insisted on doing, they were 

both startled at his appearance, neither of 

them being able to understand this sudden 

and seemingly motiveless excitement ; but 

then neither Lady Valentina nor her father 



Grim Death! 87 



were subject to spasmodic fits of exagger- 
ated scruples — they pursued a very even 
honourable path ; both possessed much de- 
cision of character, and but seldom experi- 
enced a difficulty in deciding between right 
and wrong — how then could they easily enter 
into and comprehend the perplexities which 
at times drove Matthew into extremes of 
depression or exaltation. 

* I ought to go and see my mother, happy 
as I am here it is my duty ; don't you think 
so, Lord Beaurepaire ? ' Matthew blurted out 
before either of his friends had had time 
to ask him what had happened. 

' No, my dear boy,' answered his lordship 
very kindly, ' your first duty is to get well. 
Your father and mother are coming to town 
to-morrow. I have just had a letter. The 
duke has lent them his house. A change is 
thought advisable for Mrs Desborough, and 
she will be able to see that we are taking 
proper care of you.' 



88 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

* Oh ! Lord Beaurepaire, how kind and 
good every one is,' and a sort of moisture 
came about Matthew's eyes, which stoics 
might have called effeminate. 

* Never mind kindness and goodness now. 
It is a lovely morning, Valentina is going to 
take you for a drive in the victoria. Don't 
think about anything, save enjoying it as 
much as you can.' 

And so Matthew's path was smoothed for 
him once more ; he had only to make him- 
self as happy as he could, and for a little 
longer time Claire Bailey must wait. 



CHAPTER VI. 




SEEKING CONSOLATION. 

' Omnes eodem cogimur ; omnium 
Versatur urna serius ocius 
Sors exitura, et nos in ceternum 
Exsilium impositura cymbra.' 

R SIVEWRIGHT muttering these 
lines to himself in a suppressed 
dirge-like voice, walked slowly 
on the day following George Desborough's 
funeral across that portion of Vantage Park 
which divided the house from the vicarage. 
Scarcely a fortnight ago Mrs Desborough 
had sent for him in hot haste to hold counsel 
about the trap they both believed Mrs Tre- 
mayne to have set for poor George, and now 
he was slowly nearing the house in the hope 



90 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

of pouring some comfort In among the 
mother's sorrow, even he, with his ready- 
speech, feehng perhaps that words would 
come haltingly. Philosopher though he was, 
Mr Sivewright was gravely Impressed by 
George's sudden and fearful death. 

He had loved the bright, buoyant youth 
with whom he had so often sat in friendly 
parlance over a bottle of good old port in the 
vicarage dining-room. He believed in George, 
and appreciated the true metal from which 
he gave him credit for being moulded, while 
he could not help fearing that Matthew's 
character presented decided symptoms of 
alloy. Mr Sivewright detested weakness — 
he had not therefore weighed with sufficient 
care the consideration that weakness in Mat- 
thew was a commendable virtue, since the 
very conscientious scrupulosity it produced, 
though troublesome to his companions, was 
yet calculated to lead him into the highest 
walks of rectitude and truth. That Mat- 



Seeking Consolation. gi 



thew was henceforth to be heir of Vantage, 
Mr SIvewriorht regarded as a serious mis- 
fortune, and perhaps in adding up the sum 
total of his regrets over the premature death 
of poor George, he even reckoned it as the 
heaviest. To talk of this to Mrs Desborough 
was, however, scarcely consistent with the 
mission on which he was bent ; no easy one, 
be it remembered. He could generally and 
sincerely grieve with her over her loss, but 
dare he enter on spiritual subjects, and touch 
on any belief of what exists in that impene- 
tralia, the mystic life ? Nay, in their many 
conversations had not Mr Sivewright and 
Mrs Desborough allowed their natural intel- 
lects too free scope, practised too persistently 
the art of sophistry for any words of his to 
touch the well-spring of religious feeling now, 
as far as Mrs Desborough was concerned ? 
He might grow eloquent from oft -quoted 
sources to others of his flock, but would Mrs 
Desborough, with whom he had so frequently 



92 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

discussed the pros and the cons of vital sub- 
jects, beheve in him, however eloquent the 
lecture he gave her on the comfort of revealed 
religion ? 

As Mr Sivewright wended his way through 
Vantage Park, was there no regret about the 
forbidden ground he had trod with his old 
friend, and which would seal his lips against 
saying many things that might have afforded 
her comfort now ? He had not seen Mrs 
Desborough since the news of George's death 
had come ; but that morning a little perfumed 
note, with a deep black border, had reached 
him. * Try to come to me about four/ it said, 
with neither head nor tail to it, as though the 
writer was in no mood for adjuncts or super- 
fluities — this straw in the wind being an 
index to Mrs Desborough's feelings at the 
moment. Nothing like the tragedies of life 
for bringing our true selves to the surface. 
There was more than one dark chapter in 
the past career of the mistress of Vantage 



Seeking Consolation. 93 

Park, whicli li.ul hvx^w over and over attain 
laitl bare l)y lliis williiiL;" [x'liitciU to lu.'r some- 
what unwillliit;- confcsscjr, for Mr Sivcvvri^ht 
was well i"iiL;li as iiUolci'ant of the j)i"a(:Li(:(: of 
confession in the houdoir as he was in th(! 
confessional. Nevertheless, then; wen; not 
wanting" tini(!S when, in tlu; healthy breeze; of 
prosperity and worldly excitement, Mrs I )(;s- 
borough more than half recoiled from th(; 
remembrance; of haviniL;' b(;(;n so sj)iritiially 
lavish to her beloved director, and th(|-e were 
even mom(;nts when, bein^;' pi(|ii('d by or 
provok(;(l with him for somelhiiif^ about h(;r 
Grace of Montariis, or ev(;n lesser matters, 
she would r(;iL(r(;t th(;m ouli-ii^ht. 

I>ut if tlu; strongest of us an; |)ron(; at 
times t(j yearn lor sonu; one; on whom to lean 
wlien utt(;rly w(;ary and (l(;j(;ct(;d, it will 
scarcely b(; conc(;ive.{l that Mrs I)esborou;,di, 
who, if a clever, was d(;ci(le(lly a weak woman, 
nced(;d a far less touch of sorrow than that 
under which she now stagg(;red to necessitate; 



94 Sackcloth and B^^oadcloth. 

that she should support all the weary weights 
on that firm prop, the Vicar of Fernwood. 

To a doubting, wind-tossed nature, there 
is nothing: so restful as a confidante who Is 
free alike from doubts and scruples. Mrs 
Desborou^h knew that Mr SIvewrIo;ht had 
arrived at Immutable conclusions on the great 
questions of life, death, the soul's eternity, 
and the like, and that beyond that point it 
was as useless as it was vexatious for us 
finite beings to pry. 

Intellectually, he was therefore to all 
appearance, strong, and without doubt, he 
was consistent ; but she scarcely knew the 
w^eakness before which he trembled at the 
coming tcte-d-tete, and that the danger he 
feared arose from simple goodness of heart. 
Apart from any individual feeling for his still 
fair friend, he knew himself to be habitually 
— constitutionally he called It — tender-hearted 
to a fault. Intellect may occasionally get 
the better of our worst and fiercest passions. 



Seekmg Consolatio7i. 95 

but it has little chance against the nobler 
emotions. 

Men of Lawrence Sivewright's calibre 
have had so many bitter experiences of 
having been run away with by their heart, 
long before they begin to go down life's 
hill, that as they grow older they are per- 
petually on the look-out for surprises, and 
the first suspicion of one instantly produces 
an impulse of self-preservation, and hence 
it is that we are not Infrequently astonished 
by little outbursts on the part of those whom 
we know to be most tender-hearted, which, 
taken in the abstract, fall little short of sheer 
brutality. 

Having slowly walked over to the great 
house, been announced, and heard the 
boudoir door closed by the retreating foot- 
man, Mr SIvewrlght took both Mrs Des- 
borough's hands in his own as she rose to 
meet him, and seeing her falter in her steps, 
paternally put one arm round her, and led 



96 Sackcloth and B^'oadcloth. 

her to a seat. Neither had a clear throat 
nor dry eyes, and some minutes elapsed 
before either attempted to speak. Mrs 
Desborough it was who did so the first. 

* I have been wanting so to see you, but I 
did not feel — I could not muster up courage 
to send even for you till to-day.' 

* I know — I know,' he said nervously, and 
without a particle of his usual self-contained 
manner — so gallant and at the same time 
so dienified. Whatever there was of dross 
in the affection that existed between these 
two, grief purified it for the time being at 
any rate. 

' I wanted you so much to ask you- — to 
speak of poor darling George's — of whether 
we could not have some special prayers said 
for his soul. It seems so awful to be hurried 
into eternity without a moment to prepare.' 

Poor woman ! she was terribly in earnest, 
and meant admirably of course, yet there 
was something in itself comically incon- 



Seeking Consolation. 97 

gruous In this highly intellectual woman, 
who had never before regarded religion in 
any other light than as one of her occasional 
luxuries, now in the simplest way turning 
to it in her sore need, much as she would 
have sought the aid of an architect for a 
tumble-down house, or a celebrated physi- 
cian for some bodily ailment from which she 
was suffering. Mr Sivewright had known 
her too long and too intimately to be much 
surprised at anything she could say or do ; 
but even he had never seen her before in 
so seriously religious a mood — awakened in 
the spirit, to use a technical phrase. Some- 
how it had the effect of drying his tears ; he 
moved a little uneasily on his chair and said — 

' Praying for the dead is a practice both 
poetical and picturesque, no doubt ; but, my 
dear friend, it Is founded on the Romish 
dogma of purgatory, which the Church of 
England holds to be a heresy.' 

It suited Mrs Desborough to-day that 

VOL. II. G 



98 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



there should be a purgatory. She wanted 
one to put her dead son into in imagination, 
and she v^diS froiss^e that in applying to a 
professional dealer in such articles he should 
not at once supply it ; she had a confused 
idea that hell was only for murderers, and 
those sort of people, you know ; or perhaps 
for just a few criminals of position who had 
been very wicked indeed, the Borgias and 
Judas, and perhaps Richard the Third. Yet 
probably, even she did not imagine that her 
gay eldest son had been leading exactly the 
sort of life to enable him to enter unchal- 
lenged at the narrow gate. She had been 
reading up a little on the subject, so she 
answered pluckily, — 

' But it says in Maccabees, that it is a 
holy and a wholesome thought to pray for 
the dead, that they may be loosed from 
their sins.' 

' I will not enter upon the subject at 
present with you,' he replied, ' because I feel 



Seeking Consolation. 99 

convinced such a course would not bring you 
comfort or peace ; but I have debated the 
point often, both with Romanists and Ritual- 
ists — take my advice, I pray you. Let it 
suffice you that the Anglican Church, your 
Church, has always held that the dogma of 
purgatory is not supported by the Bible.' 

' But friend, friend, never mind the church 
of this or that, but tell me, on your honour, 
do you feel quite sure on the matter .»* ' 

' Absolutely.' 

* And you believe — ' 

' I give you my honour, I feel absolutely 
sure there is no purgatory.' 

' How dreadful ! ' 

' Not at all, my dear lady, to my mind it 
would be far more dreadful if there were.' 

' Oh, but my son ! my poor thoughtless 
boy ! ' and she bent down and gave way to a 
burst of tears and grief. * It is so awful for 
you and me to be sitting in this comfortable 
room, and to think that perhaps poor George, 



I CO Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

just because he did like most other spirited 
young men about society, to think that he 
should be lost for ever is quite too horrible/ 
and she sobbed as if her heart must break. 
Her friend was terribly pained to see her 
suffer so, but he hoped the torrents of tears 
he saw flowing might relieve her physically 
as well as mentally. He placed his hand on 
hers and said, — 

* Be reasonable. You believe in God, do 
you not ? ' 

' I do, I do.' 

* Well, you cannot do that and doubt of 
His infinite mercy and goodness.' 

' But,' she objected, ' how can anything 
impure enter heaven.' 

' It is useless for you and me to discuss 
what we neither of us can know anything 
about ; but you will never persuade me that 
God can look on for all eternity and see one 
of His creatures broiling and grilling, much 
less a fine good-hearted fellow like George, 



Seeking Consolation. loi 



who, as the saying is, would not have hurt 
a fly.' 

' Then you really do not believe in hell ? * 
she said, looking up suddenly, quite radiant, 

* I do not believe in a place of eternal 
torments — no.' 

' But is not that heresy ? ' 

* It has of late years been decided not. 
Many of our bishops hold that no soul can 
be entirely lost' 

* But the scripture — ' 

* It is very doubtful what the precise 
meaning of the word really is. Christ 
descended into a part of hell called Limbo. 
This gives rise to countless suggestions as 
to the meaning of hell, none of them favour- 
able to its being a place of excruciating and 
never-ending torture. But, dear friend, you 
know well my strong objection to contro- 
versy, nor do I think the pursuit of it now 
will prove consolatory to you. Try and 
divert your mind from painful subjects 



I02 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

until time shall have somewhat assuaged 
your grief.' 

But Mrs Desborough was in a very 
religious mood, and would think and talk 
of nothing but this and kindred topics. 
She was beginning to ask herself at this 
point of the conversation whether she would 
not send for Mr Lently, and for a few 
moments, so keen was she on the matter, 
that she had already begun to think how 
she could dismiss the more polished divine, 
when all at once it struck her that as much 
depended upon the speaker as on the words 
spoken by a spiritual comforter, and that 
it avails little to have the right thing said, 
so long as it is not uttered by the right 
man. There were times when she was 
afraid to think how little Mr Sivewright 
really in his heart believed of revelation 
and the great truths of Christianity, while 
his realistic brother was, as it were, a burn- 
ing ball of faith. No one who knew Lently 



Seeking Consolation. lo; 



could fail to do him the justice to believe 
in his honesty. ' But alas ! ' and as this 
clinching argument rose to her mind, all 
thought of sending for him passed away 
from it. ' I can trust his honesty as though 
I could read him through ; but where, oh 
where is his judgment ?' 

It was here that Sivewright shone out 
so unapproachably in the comparison. The 
most unlikely thing grew probable the 
moment he said it, for he invariably carried 
the conviction to another mind, not only 
that he believed, but that he had not 
arrived at any convictions whatever without 
having submitted them to the crucial analysis 
of his exceptional intellect ; but then he but 
seldom could be induced, either in the pulpit 
or out of it, to enlighten any one as to the 
nature of his tenets. He was, in matters 
of faith, a mere channel ; no one had ever 
heard him say ' I believe this or that,' except 
as he was obliged to do so in the Church's 



I04 Sackcloth a7id Broadcloth. 



formula. It was accordingly often remarked 
that the subjects of his sermons were almost 
without exception, the human (or as they are 
sometimes called the Pagan) virtues and 
their contrary sins ; passing events, political 
or otherwise ; scientific discoveries, or what 
may be termed the purely historical aspect 
of the Christian truth. 

Mrs Desborough was quite aware of all 
this, for often, in their confidential talks, 
had she made the vicar's face darken as 
she would try to explore the attractive 
unknown country of her friend's conscience, 
either by direct questioning or by pretend- 
ing to take free - thinking views herself. 
Always, however, she came out second best 
from her daring encounters of feminine 
against clerical wit. The Rev. Lawrence 
was sure, either by a well turned jest or 
an abrupt change of subject, to extricate 
himself from the dilemma, if dilemma it 
were, without affording his interlocutory a 



Seeking Consolation. 105 

scintilla of the knowledge she so rashly 
sought. 

To-day, writhing under the selfishness of 
grief, she felt particularly reckless, and was 
determined if possible to discover what Mr 
Sivewright — being the polished heathen his 
enemies whispered him to be — what he might 
have to set up, In the stead of all he 
mentally, though secretly, demolished. List- 
lessly, then, throwing herself back in her 
seat, she said, — 

* If you do away with everlasting punish- 
ment — for my part, it implies doing away 
equally with eternal reward. It is contrary 
to a sense of justice to retain one without 
the other, and that would lead one straight 
to believing nothing at all. I was reading 
Nicolas, which, by-the-bye, is the only reli- 
gious book that does not bore me, and he 
says : — '' L'homme se sentant eternel, tout 
ce qui finit n'est rien pour lui." This is 
sense indeed. The notion of a heaven or a 



1 06 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

hell, say of a thousand years and no more, 
or any other limited period, is not only 
illogical, but positively comic' 

' Of course, any precise period of time 
named as a portion of eternity is absurd,' 
said the vicar. 

' It is the only way we have of expressing 
our thoughts on these points. How can a 
mortal define Eternity but as Time going 
on for ever ? ' 

' And yet I can conceive, but only 
vaguely, that it may be nothing of the 
sort.' 

' Well, I confess I cannot ; but then,' she 
added, with just a shade of sarcasm and 
irritability in her voice, ' I cannot be ex- 
pected to be so clever as you are.' 

The churchman's habitual treatment of 
little thrusts like these was the rather 
cruel one of ignoring them. 

' Time, space,' he went on musingly, 
there is something, to my mind, intrinsi- 



Seeking Consolation, 107 

cally finite about both, whether considered 
as terms or ideas.' 

' The simplest way is to believe in nothing 
at all.' This remark Mrs Desborough threw 
out merely as a feeler. He replied, — 

* It is simple.' 

* It is what I am being hurried into,' said 
the lady. 

' I most devoutly hope not,' was the 
clergyman's prompt answer. 

* Why should you care ? ' 

'If for no better reason, because I con- 
sider a woman without religion the most 
uninteresting object in creation.' 

* It is vulgar,' she said, softening at what 
she thought a proof of his interest in her. 

' I think you will never grow uninterest- 
ing,' and he gave her a bright smile. * I am 
sure you will never be vulgar.' And after 
this compliment the conversation between 
the vicar and Mrs Desborough, as far as re- 
ligious matters were concerned, proceeded 



1 o8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

no farther ; but turning on Matthew, his 
present position as eldest son, and various 
other family details, it dawdled on, watered 
by many tears on the part of the lady, 
till the dressing-bell warned them of the 
approaching dinner hour. For though a 
seeming mockery, even with the shadow of 
death still lying on the house, the usual 
conventional observances had not been 
interrupted. 




CHAPTER VII. 

AUTOLYCUS. 

Lawn as white as driven snow ; 

Cyprus black as e'er was crow ; 

Gloves as sweet as damask roses ; 

Masks for faces, and for noses ; 

Bugle bracelet, necklace amber, 

Perfume for a lady's chamber. 

Golden quoifs and stomachers 

For my lads to give their dears ; 

Pins, and poking sticks of steel, 

What maids lack from head to heel. 

Come buy of me, come ; come buy, come buy ; 

Buy, lads, or else your lasses cry. Come buy.' 




UTOLYCUS may chant his ware- 
catalogue at pleasure ; she for 
whom and from whom he had 
the Shakespearian verse, hears not his ditty. 
Ay, the duke and duchess are at Montarlis 
Castle, but Violet Tremayne is still in 



1 1 o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

London, looking her prettiest, playing her 
sweetest, to attract If possible his sexa- 
genarian lordship. The maids and grooms 
at Montarlis have come out in a little crowd 
into the stable-yard, called together by Mr 
Varley's song. Who does not know Cheap 
Jack through all that country side ? and 
from every one he receives a hearty wel- 
come. True, poor folks sometimes spend 
more money on the knick-knacks he offers 
for sale than they can well afford ; but then 
Jack has such a pleasing way of wheedling 
the money out of their pockets, that they 
cannot altogether resist It. Even the duke, 
passing through the yard by chance, stands 
for a moment to listen, and tosses a half- 
crown to the country favourite as he passes 
on and leaves the coast clear for his de- 
pendants to amuse them.selves. Cheap Jack 
pattered his nonsense, offered silver chains 
at the low sum of sixpence, gold rings with 
large diamonds for one shilling — in fact, 



Autolycus. 1 1 1 



gimcracks for any given sum, from a sove- 
reign to a penny ; but it was clear his 
heart was not in his work. He talked and 
looked and talked again ; then he took to 
flirting with a buxom bright-eyed wench, 
on the old principle that by the maid you 
eet at the mistress. 

* It isn't overworked you are at Montarlis, 
my dear, to judge by your good looks. Is 
there no company staying at the castle ? ' 

' Not a guest for this fortnight past. The 
duke and duchess are quite alone — not even 
a strange tabby cat about the place.' 

'What! not even Mrs — Mrs — ' 

* Mrs Tremayne } Oh, she's in London. 
She's never been well since poor young Mr 
Desborough was killed. It's my belief she 
was spoony on him.' 

Cheap Jack looked very blank. Mopsy's 
information was evidently more extended 
than he had bargained for. As he did 
not answer, she went on, — 



I [2 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



' He was a pretty gentleman. I was 
dreadfully sorry when I heard he was 
killed. The maid says as Mrs Tremayne 
was in a faint for hours, and never stopped 
sobbing all the night through.' 
. ' Isn't she coming back here ?' asked Mr 
Varley at last. 

* I dunno. I haven't heard nothing.' 
He began to pack up his wares, and, sum- 
moning his tiger from the * shay,' handed 
packet after packet to him ; the zest was 
all gone out of his gay prattle, and Mopsy's 
shining well - soaped face had no farther 
charm. Having put away all his goods, 
rather carelessly for him, Varley being as 
a rule a neat-handed man, he started the 
' shay/ with orders that it was to jog 
quietly down the road and wait for him, 
as he would follow on foot. He chucked 
the lively Mopsy under the chin, promised 
her a blue ribbon the next time he came 
that way, and then walked leisurely down 



A utolycus. 



the footpath towards the back lodge. His 
hands were thrust in the pockets of his 
blouse, his cap was considerably on one 
side, and he was whistling — no surer sign 
of premeditation in a man. 

He was ruminating on the subject of Mrs 
Tremayne ; picturing her in his mind's eye, 
and wishing she were not so attractive, 
since her beauty was for him a snare ; then, 
with a sudden intention to shake off if pos- 
sible the fancy, he took off his cap and ran 
his fingers through his hair. 

' If she be not fair to me, 
What care I how fair she be/ 

was the substance of his meditation. It was 
a philosophic one, but it was disturbed by 
a friendly voice. 

* Hullo, Jack, my friend. I have not seen 
you for many a day.' 

The speaker was the Rev. Lawrence 
Sivewright, who at this moment overtook 
Cheap Jack in his walk. Mr Varley took 

VOL. II. H 



1 1 4 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

his fingers out of his hair when he saw 
him, and he did not attempt to replace his 
cap. He, Hke the rest of the people round, 
was impressed by the magnitude of Mr 
Sivewright's office and position ; no one, 
perhaps, regarding him more in the light 
of a clerical potentate than did Varley, 
although he himself possessed but a very 
faint scintilla of religious inspiration. He, 
however, made it his never - failing practice 
to be obsequious to magnates. 

* I hope your reverence is well,' he said, 
shambling from leg to \^<g, much as he had 
done during his first visit to Violet. 

* Very well, thank you, Jack. You never 
pay the vicarage a visit.' 

* Bless your reverence, it's too grand the 
vicarage is for me. Your reverence's house- 
keeper looks on me as a *' ne'er do weel," 
and flouts me in the face with my lies, as 
she calls them. The lasses and boys up 
at Montarlis are quite different.' 



Autolycus, 1 1 5 



' Oh, that is the reception you meet with 
from Mrs Green, is it ? Well, she is counted 
a wise woman in her generation, and you 
can't say you don't impose on the public ; 
eh. Jack ? But never mind, stroll down 
to the vicarage with me now, and we will 
see if we cannot put things on a more 
friendly footing.' 

' South-west wind often blows up a squall,' 
muttered Jack to himself as he followed 
the Rev. Lawrence, insisting on walking 
just one step behind him, to that gentle- 
man's no small discomfort ; his object being 
to hold amiable converse with Cheap Jack. 
For what purpose was a riddle, which per- 
haps Mr Sivewright intended to solve when 
he had enticed his humble companion into 
the snug study at Fernwood-cum-Grasdale, 
for certes, he talked of nothing but gener- 
alities en rotite ; succeeding, however, there- 
by in setting Cheap Jack entirely at his ease, 
which was probably part of the vicar's plan. 



1 1 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Being quite a mile and a-half from Mont- 
arlls to Fernwood, even by short cuts across 
the fields, there was time for much discourse, 
and there were no Interruptions, save an oc- 
casionally ' Rheumatics better, Mrs Jukes ? 
You should make the youngsters do that 
hard work, Timothy,' as the vicar passed a 
well-known parishioner, till they had nearly 
reached their destination, when, going 
through a gate leading into the main road, 
they came suddenly on the Rev. Luke 
Lently. 

* Ah, Lently, how are you ? ' Mr Sive- 
wrlght called out familiarly, a free mode 
of speech which Lently particularly resented, 
always being on the qui vive to keep up the 
dignity which Mr Sivewright attained with- 
out any effort at all. 

Mr Lently put his hand to his soft hat 
with some gravity. 

' Seen the Baileys lately ? Little Claire 
was looking rather peepy when last I called.' 



Atitolycus. 1 1 7 



' I have not had that honour/ 

Mr Lently was very short in his manner. 
It was obvious that he was exactly in that 
frame of mind into which a quarrel fits 
easily, but the Rev. Lawrence, on the con- 
trary, was in the blandest of humours ; and 
since it takes two people to wrangle, there 
was not much chance of a dispute arising 
out of this unexpected meeting. If Mr 
Lently had considered for a moment, he 
might have remembered that his clerical 
brother and rival had never been known 
to involve himself in any contentious argu- 
ment : as soon as the laws of high breeding 
were in danger of being violated, he ever 
retired gracefully from the field. The men- 
tion of the Baileys* name was especially 
riling to Mr Lently, since now that George 
Desborough was dead there was little chance 
that Matthew would take orders, and Mr 
Lently would, under these circumstances, 
have especially chosen Claire, one of his 



1 1 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

own flock, as future mistress of Vantage. 
He could but regret how completely the 
circumstances had been unpropitious to him, 
even impelling him into that interview with 
Lady Laura on the day subsequent to 
meeting her and Claire in the wood, which 
had been so stormy as to be necessarily 
final. For all these disagreeables and con- 
tretemps he felt perhaps a little unjustly 
inclined to thank Mr Sivewright, never 
giving that gentleman his due in acknow- 
ledging him to be a much better diplomat 
than himself, but hating him for his success 
— hating him, that is, with a sort of spiritual 
hatred, which always had the Lord for its 
witness. 

Mr Sivewright crossed the road with 
Cheap Jack, and went in at another gate 
on the opposite side, leading directly into 
his own glebe. Having closed it behind 
him, he called out once more, — 

* Lently, half a moment. I nearly forgot 



AutolycMs. 119 



something I have been wishing to say to 
you for weeks.' 

The Rev. Luke, who by this time had 
got some yards down the road, and was 
chewing the cud of his displeasure as he 
went, turned round, though it is scarcely 
likely he would have done so could he have 
known the question his reverend brother 
was about to propound. 

' That meeting that is to take place on 
Tuesday for discussing the advantages that 
would be derived from forming an associa- 
tion to convert certain parishioners into 
scripture readers. Are you going to it ? ' 

' Most decidedly not,' was Mr Lently's 
brief but emphatic answer. 

* Oh, you don't care for interference or 
help from neighbours. But it is only the 
funds that are to be general ; we are to 
find the readers among ourselves.' 

But Mr Lently only flourished his hand 
in token of a dissent too deep for words, and 



1 20 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

walked on. While Mr Sivewright, a smile 
on his face the while, turned to his com- 
panion with the most perfect courtesy. 

* Excuse me, Jack ; but these little parish 
details must be attended to. By Jove ! the 
geese have strayed into the garden ; here's 
another interruption. Where on earth is the 
boy ? Here, boy, boy.' 

Had the geese played havoc with every 
vegetable and shrub in the vicarial garden, the 
lordly Sivewright would have taken no more 
active measures than that of shouting, and 
the boy's head appearing over the top of a 
hedge, he made the entire business over to 
him, with orders that he was to see all the 
gaps secured, and then, always accompanied 
by Mr Varley, he went into the vicarage. 

Mrs Green's surprise, when she saw her 
master with this man, knew no bounds ; but 
she invariably made a point of seeing with the 
vicar's eyes, so henceforth she would con- 
trive to regard Cheap Jack as a respectable 



Autolycus. 121 



member of society, with whom honest folk 
should sit and chat, since, not five minutes 
later, Mr Varley was sitting in the vicar's 
study, a decanter of old brown sherry be- 
tween them, and some of Mrs Green's snow 
cakes lying on a plate before the hawker of 
cheap wares. The object of Mr Sivewright 
in thus inviting Varley into these intimate and 
friendly relations still remained unrevealed. 
From his behaviour it was almost evident 
that the vicar — while he, from some private 
motive, chatted pleasantly with Cheap Jack — 
did not in the meantime intend that usually 
astute individual to imagine he had any 
ulterior reason beyond the condescension 
which it behoves a Christian teacher to 
evince towards all his poorer brethren. 

They talked on a variety of social subjects. 
Varley's knowledge of neighbourhoods and 
people was, as we are aware, large, and 
under the vicars potent wine he unfolded 
and grew communicative. George Des- 



122 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

borough s fearful and sudden death was not 
omitted. Then Varley, taking a long pull at 
his glass, asked boldly, — 

' Was the young squire sweethearting with 
the lady at the castle, your reverence ? ' 

Mr Sivewright looked keenly for a mo- 
ment at the questioner from under his heavy 
eyebrows ; the man's face expressed no sign, 
save that conveyed by a deep flush. 

' What do you know of this lady ? ' he 
asked after a second. 

' Little enough — save from talk,' answered 
the other, too loyal by nature to betray 
Violet's meetings with himself. 

* Talk involves a good many falsehoods, 
my friend ; we should, all of us, beware of 
idle words. What you have heard of Mrs 
Tremayne and Mr George Desborough is 
very idle, I should imagine.' 

The flush deepened on Varley's face ; but, 
if the vicar noted it, he did not appear to do 
so — only turned away from the subject, as 



Autolycus. 123 



though it did not interest him, and said in a 
very off-hand way, — 

* Your life must have been somewhat of a 
chequered one- Eh, Jack ? I have a curiosity 
to learn a few of its vicissitudes. How came 
you to take to your present trade ? ' 

Jack's tongue had been untied by good 
liquor ; he lay comfortably back in his arm- 
chair, took up the right side of his blouse, 
and tucked it carefully into the left side of a 
leather belt he wore, crossed his legs, and 
began what was evidently about to prove a 
yarn. 





CHAPTER VIII. 

LITTLE PEARL. 

ELL, your reverence, though its 
a good many years since I was 
a boy, and though perhaps you 
wouldn't believe it, yet I had a bit of 
eddication in those days ; but, bless ye, it's 
so long ago, and I've passed through such a 
world of contrariness since that, I've a'most 
forgotten all the learning I ever picked up. 
My father was a sort of a gentleman in 
his way — at least, he was above his class, 
and went with those who knew him by the 
name of '' Gentleman Varley." It wasn't a 
paying title, since it made him lazy ; but 
ril do my best towards giving you a de- 



Little Pearl. 125 



scrlptlon of my home life. Maybe you know 
Marston-on-Willows ; if you never was there, 
it's a place worth looking at, if you should 
chance that way. It's not because it was my 
native town that I speak of it, but on 
account of its own interest.' 

' I have heard of the place,' said the vicar, 
* and heard that it has a peculiarity all its 
own — so you were born at Marston-on Wil- 
lows, Mr Varley ? ' 

' That's it, sir, and I'll make so bold as 
to tell you about what Marston's like. It 
has long straight streets, with gabled roofs 
and small casement windows to the houses, 
and black and white tiles let in all over 
the fronts of them, and every house has 
its motto or sign writ somewhere on the 
lintel. Ours was — 

" Happiness weddeth virtue," 

They was funny little rooms in the old 
house, a tall man couldn't stand upright in 



1 26 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

a many of them, in the attic where I slept 
you might touch the ceiling as you lay a 
bed ; but then you had only got to open 
your eyes wide enough to see the loveliest 
landscape as God ever made on this beauti 
ful earth. Talk o' panoramas and dioramas, 
them as swells in big cities goes to look at 
there never was a one of them to come up 
to that natural picture, as my window did 
peep hole to, and yet I didn't valley it, then 
got tired of looking at it, I suppose — though 
it varied pretty much too as times and sea- 
sons changed. It was prettiest of all when 
the sun was shining on the river as it twined 
in and out among the willows, every now 
and then coming out like a great sparkling 
diamond, then hiding itself again right away 
from view under the rushes that gives a bit 
of trade to Marston, and makes it a sort 
of basket town. They are tolerably well 
known about the country is Marston baskets ; 
never a visitor came as didn't buy one, and 



Little Pearl. 127 



that was what we made our living by. Our 
shop, which wasn't a big one, was the 
great emporium for Marston baskets ; it was 
crammed to the roof with them, of every size 
and shape, though it was mostly fancy small 
ones as we sold. Father was salesman ; it 
was a genteel trade, as suited his dainty 
gentleman habits — especially when ladies 
came to buy, then wouldn't he show his 
white teeth and his white hands as though 
he was a born actor. Mother, she was a 
hard-working, driving body, with an uneven 
temper and a sharp tongue. That she had 
her worrits and her draw-backs I know now, 
as I look back on things with a bit of world- 
learnt knowledge ; but young blood can't 
always put up with rowing and complaining, 
least-wise mine wouldn't. I looked on mother 
as a shrew, and one fine day I made up my 
mind, all on a sudden-like, to be a man all 
at once, and have no more scoldings or 
blows, for it cam.e to that sometimes. 



128 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

*■ There was a show came to Marston, 
down in the meadow, four great carts and 
ever so many horses, with a lot of boys and 
girls and men and women, in tinsel and 
fine clothes, with their faces all chalked and 
pinked and blacked, till they looked real 
beautiful as I thought then. I spent hours 
a looking at them, and didn't seem to re- 
member the cuffing I should get on my 
return home for the time I had wasted 
away from my baskets. It was a rare one 
though, when it came ; but instead of curing 
me it made me worse. I bolted off back to 
the vans, and sitting down at the back of 
one of them, I sulked and sobbed dry tear- 
less sobs for a while. I was a good big boy, 
too big to mind a woman's hand, though it 
was a heavy one ; but my self-love was 
wounded, and that's harder to bear than 
a bruised skin. The master of the caravan 
saw me sitting there at last, and came 
to me. 



L it tie Pea rl. 1 2 9 



' " What's up with you, lad ? " he asked In 
a cheery tone. 

* He was a Httle fat man, who wore tights, 
and a short green velvet frock, all greasy 
and mangy when you was close to it, but 
real beautiful he looked on the stage when 
the dip candles was lighted up, and he had 
a wreath of gold leaves round his head, tied 
with dingy coloured ribbon meant for white. 
He was Achilles or Agamemnon or some 
such swell. 

' " Well," says this hero to me. '* Darn 
It, don't sit whimpering there, my lad ; but 
come and give us a hand inside." 

' Inside that wonderful show ! there was 
luck to be sure ; so I up and followed him, 
and soon forgot my cuffs and my troubles 
in that there wonderful place.' 

Here Mr Varley left off his story to chuckle 
quietly to himself, and then he remarked in 
an utterly different tone to the one in which 
he had been narrating his experiences, — 

VOL. II. I 



1 30 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Strange, sir, isn't it, what different im- 
pressions is produced at the different ages 
of man ? I thought that there caravan a 
paradise then. Now I know it was a very 
hell.' 

' Well, you joined it, of course,' broke in 
Mr Sivewright, a little impatiently for him. 

* Ay, sir, and what is more, spent five 
years going about the country doing every 
kind of mountebank trick they put me to. 
Making a goodish bit of money too, at 
times, though not much of it found its 
way into my pocket. " More kicks than 
ha'pence," was the motto of the establish- 
ment ; but somehow I put up with ill-usage 
there, though I wouldn't do it from my 
poor old mother, whose heart was well-nigh 
broken by my desertion and evil ways.' 

' What, then, was the especial attraction 
that kept you for five years with these 
people ?' asked Mr Sivewright. 

' Ah, that's it, sir ; and perhaps it will 



Little Pearl. 



surprise your reverence when I tell you it 
was a child/ 

* A female child of course/ put in the 
vicar smiling. 

Mr Varley bowed his head In acquiescence. 

* She was a pretty little thing was Pearl. 
She had bright blue eyes and curling dark 
hair, and such rosy healthy cheeks — at 
least when she first joined us — for hard 
work and poor fare soon made little Pearl 
want the rouge pot. She was eight years 
old when she first joined us, and where she 
came from I couldn't make out. But one 
morning when I got up there was Pearl, 
in a black frock, outside the van opposite 
the one I had been sleeping in, sitting upon 
the step in a bewildered sort of way. 

' '• Mother has gone to heaven," was the 
only answer she made, when asked where 
she hailed from, a fact which her black frock 
seemed to speak up to. The loss of her 
mother did not, however, seem to make 



1 3 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



Pearl very sad, for she munched a piece of 
apple some one had given her, between 
sundry repeatings of this fact, in various 
shapes. Hadn't she a temper, my little 
beauty, my little beauty Pearl. She was 
the wilfullest 3'Oung filly as ever took to 
scampering over male hearts ; and she left 
the prints of her tiny feet on mine, and no 
mistake. Ain't sure but they are there yet.' 

Mr Sivewright smiled, and pushed the 
sherry a little nearer his guest. 

* So you stayed five years with the itiner- 
ant players in order to be near little Pearl.' 

' She wanted some one to get her out of 
scrapes, you see, sir, and to help her a bit 
when the master gave her high flights to 
perform. Pearl's wasn't an easy life, for 
she was so clever, he wouldn't believe she 
couldn't do anything. She could read and 
write, too, which was more than the most 
of the children could do ; and sing, law 
bless ye, when she opened her mouth to 



Little Pearl. 



sing It was like all the larks a-rippling at 
once. I often wonder if she was happy — 
she didn't look it always ; but she never 
complained, and she was always cheery, 
even under difficulties ; but then no girl 
ever had such a courageous way of looking 
straight at life as had little Pearl. Bless me, 
shouldn't I like to see little Pearl again ? ' 

' What became of her '^, ' asked the vicar, 
and there was a sort of twinkle in his eye 
as he put the question. 

' She disappeared in a flash like, same as 
she come ; and the curtain as went down 
that day on the first act in my life was a 
black one.' 

* Did you never see her again, or ascer- 
tain where she had gone ? ' 

* Never. I asked the master what had 
become of her, but he only said, " An open- 
ing had been found for her as was likely 
to give her a start in life." She never said 
"good-bye," nor writ *' good-bye," nor ap- 



J 34 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

peared again in any way ; and yet I was a 
good Jack to her. Do you know, sir, I 
often think little Pearl must be dead.' 
The vicar shook his head. 

* Do you know anything about her, sir ? 
You look as if you did.' 

' My friend, what should I know of your 
Pearl ? But to imagine a woman is dead, 
solely because she neglects to follow up a 
youthful flirtation, is a little unworthy of your 
supposed knowledge of the world. Eh, 
Jack ? ' 

' Well, I don't know, sir ; but I was good 
to Pearl, I was. Why, I have been thrashed 
often when I had done nothing, solely to 
shield her from the blame. Many's the 
time I have gone without my meals to give 
them to her.' 

* Do you think you should know her if 
you met her now ? ' 

' Know Pearl ? among: ten thousand 
beauties I'd pick out Pearl. I goes to 



Little Pearl. 135 



every theayter and shilling caravan as I 
comes across ; but it's never the likes of 
her as I sees in any of them. There's only 
one person as I have ever met as brings 
little Pearl back to my mind when I looks 
at her,' and Mr Varley's voice sank almost 
to a whisper during the last part of this 
sentence. 

' And she Is — ' 

* Mrs Tremayne/ he answered in the 
same low tone ; ' her as went up in the 
balloon so plucky like.' 

* Mrs Tremayne ! Have you ever told 
her this ? ' 

' Lor' bless your reverence, I shouldn't 
dare. She is a free-spoken lady enough, 
and mighty civil and even tongued, but 
I'm expecting as it ain't many liberties as 
she'd take without rising.* 

* In that perhaps also she resembles your 
little Pearl, who, you say, had a temper.' 

* Maybe, maybe, your reverence. There's 



136 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

an uncommon likeness, but most folks has 
their doubles in this life, so they says. 
Well, as J was telling you, Pearl left the 
caravan, and I wasn't long in followin' her 
example. A sort of home-sickness came over 
me after Pearl went, so I skedaddled without 
leave one fine day, and made my appear- 
ance in Marston without announcing my 
arrival. In five years everything had gone 
topsy-turvy ; father was dead, and mother 
had worn out all her sperrit, and had turned 
from a scold into a whimpering old woman. 
I stayed at home a bit and put things 
straight for her, but Marston life was weari- 
some after ^sr^ years of vagabondising ; be- 
sides, I had to look for Pearl, so I took a 
few pounds father had left me, 'cause I was the 
scapegrace of the family, I suppose, and set 
up in my present line o' business. I'd seen 
a many cheap Jacks when I was with the 
mummers, and it had always seemed a 
merry, money - making perfession, and it 



Little Pearl. 



0/ 



hain't proved contrairy, except that though 
I've got a bit of money in the bank, I 
hav'n't found the Httle beauty as I thought 
to share it with/ 

* Have you ever talked of Pearl to Mrs 
Tremayne ? ' 

' I never speaks of her, your reverence. 
This is the first time her name has crossed 
my lips these ten years. It's that there 
wine as has done it to-day.' 

* I'm glad you have spoken, my friend, and 
if I can help you in your search, command 
me.' 

* Lor', sir, I ain't a-searchin' now. She's 
took up her line by this, has Pearl, either 
above or below the sod. She don't want 
me, or she'd have found me, for she knows 
as Jack is faithful ; but I am weary in' your 
reverence with this long account, and its 
getting late. I must be off to Hurton and 
look after my cart and goods.' 

* I am never wearied. Jack, by listening to 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 



the story of a fellow-creature's life. We 
are all benefited by hearing of the trials and 
difficulties of others, my friend. Remember 
you have always an ally and a patient 
hearer at Fern wood Vicarage. If you ever 
find Pearl you will let me know. Eh ? ' 

' Ay, ay, sir, that I will ; but it won't be 
on this side of the c^rave.' 

' Not so sure of that, Jack ; not so sure 
of that.' 

And with a hand - shake they parted. 
Jack walked off in the now gathering dark- 
ness towards Hurton, going over once again 
the story of his youth as he strolled on, 
and wondering why the Vicar of Fernwood 
should interest himself in the doings of such 
as he. 

* 'Taint his usual habit to put hisself out- 
of-the-way for the sheep as doesn't step 
kindly inside the fold,' he decided, as he 
turned into the gate of the inn, where he 
expected to find his cart and tiger. 



L it tie Pea rl. 1 3 9 



The vicar meanwhile stretched his feet 
out lazily on the hearthrug, the fading day- 
light just being sufficient to show the smile 
that was wreathing Itself about his lips. 

* Pearl/ he muttered softly, * so every life 
has its pearl, even Cheap Jack's.' 




CHAPTER IX. 



FAREWELL SWEET DREAM. 




L A I R E and her mother are 
sitting at breakfast about three 
weeks after George Desborough's 
death. It is a bitterly cold morning, the 
snow is lying a foot deep in the garden, 
and a gloomy, foggy atmosphere makes all 
external objects seem drear, nor is there 
much more cheerfulness in the breakfast- 
room at Swanover Cottage. Claire's white 
face does not exhibit one symptom of joy, 
and Lady Laura's heart beats, oh, so throb- 
bingly, as she looks at her child. 

There has been a long silence, during 
which they have both seemed afraid that each 



Farewell Szveet Dream. 141 

should read the other's private thoughts ; at 
last, however, Claire said very softly and 
gently,— 

* I shall write to Matthew to-day, mother, 
and give him back his promise.' 

Lady Laura did not answer, save by an 
almost Inarticulate ' Ah.' She, too, felt that 
as long as Matthew was a younger son, the 
objections to the marriage were removable, 
notwithstanding Mr Lently's strictures and 
Mrs Desborough's spite ; but now he was 
heir of Vantage they were increased tenfold. 

' You approve, dearest mother, do you 
not?' 

Lady Laura looked at Claire for a minute, 
as though her child's happiness alone could 
influence her ; but then she said, — 

* Yes, Claire, I suppose it is the only 
course to be pursued. If Matthew — ' 

* He must be free and unbiassed,' inter- 
rupted the girl, a hot flush coming suddenly 
across the blanched face ; * there must be no 



142 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

ifs. I should be more unhappy as Matthew's 
wife by compulsion than — ' and she stopped. 

School herself as she would, the great 
love of her life would hold a sway not easily 
to be set on one side, even at the prompt- 
ings of honour. She went on again, how- 
ever, after a short pause, boldly enough. 

' Whatever my feelings, they must be 
counted for nothing now. Matthew is in 
a new position. For at least a year I will 
listen to no word of engagement between 
us. He must feel his way in this fresh life, 
learn what he can, and what he cannot give 
up. Mother, it is very hard to bear, but it 
must be done, honour and pride demand it. 
You will help me, will you not ? ' 

Claire's griefs, great or small, ever since 
her baby days, were invariably accompanied 
by an appeal for maternal succour. 

' My child, of course I will, but look up, 
my Claire, such devotion and honesty must 
have their reward — you will be happy yet.' 



Farewell Szueet Dream. 143 

But the girl only shook her head with 
a faint smile. 

A few hours later, and Claire's simple 
letter was written to Matthew, and the 
post-bag that went that day from Swan- 
over was a heavy one, if the weight of 
post-bags may be judged by the amount of 
heart that goes in the letters. 

' Of course Matthew will disdain this 
sacrifice,' Lady Laura thought, ' though it 
was only right and fitting that Claire should 
offer it.' 

But for once Lady Laura judged falsely. 
Two days later Matthew's answer came. He 
accepted a temporary suspension of their 
engagement, ' not,' as he said, ' for any want 
of his old ardent love for Claire, but merely 
as a soother to the feelings of others, till they 
should have learnt in fact that he meant to 
be self-reliant, and resolved in all things 
now, more than ever, to have his own way.' 

Then he finished his missive with pro- 



1 44 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

testations of affection and devotion, which 
were almost rhapsodical In their extrava- 
gance; but which, nevertheless, failed to blind 
Claire to the fact that he was free, as her 
heart whispered, free from her — for ever. 

She laid the letter in her mother's lap — a 
cold stony look on her face, a stare in her large 
eyes. She neither spoke nor wept — speech 
and tears for the time seemed utterly to 
have deserted her. 

What could Lady Laura say ? with that 
letter so unlike what she had expected 
lying before her, she dare not whisper 
words of hope for the future — in kindness 
to her child, she felt It were wiser to face 
the truth now. She would get over her 
disappointment, she trusted, as many a 
young heart has had to do before ; she did 
not stop to calculate the amount of fresh- 
ness and brightness and trusting love that 
getting over such a disappointment demands, 
all she considered at that moment was, 



Farewell Sweet Dixam. 145 

how she could help to mitigate the blow 
which had come, none the less heavily from 
having been foreseen. 

She drew her daughter's head down on 
her shoulder as she still sat with Matthew's 
letter before her. 

' You have done your duty, my child ; 
may that at least be some small comfort 
in your trial, and now let us try and make 
the best of what is left us.' 

' The best, mother. What is the best ? 
The best has gone,' and Claire's words 
sounded like the echo of some far-off moan. 

' Life and youth and health, Claire, do 
they count for nothing in the summing up 
of our earthly relations. Listen, my love, 
I have arranged a plan which we will put 
into operation with all due speed. We will 
not sit here and bewail, that were but ill 
in accordance with the pride we have already 
shown. We will go off to the sunny south 
and see if we cannot bring the colour back 

VOL. II. K 



146 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

to those pale cheeks, for the look of your 
face makes your mother's heart very sad, my 
child, and it will not add to your happiness 
to make me miserable too. Eh, Claire ? ' 

' No, mother ; but I can't be gay. You 
must forgive — ' and poor Claire broke down, 
and finished her sentence in a sob. This 
was what Lady Laura hoped for ; tears at 
seventeen are the natural result of intense 
grief, and Lady Laura trusted that, by dint 
of them, in time the grief would wear itself 
away, and that bright days would ensue. If 
she only could get Claire to take an interest 
in going abroad, the first step would be 
gained ; but that could scarcely be expected 
yet. True, she went about the house mak- 
ing the necessary preparations with some show 
of interest; but every now and then she would 
pause in her work, and stand with a distant 
look in her eyes, as though indulging in some 
thought which carried her far away. All 
communication with Matthew had not wholly 



Farewell Sweet D 



ream. 



147 



ceased ; probably from the sheer satisfaction 
of feeling himself to be free, he had written 
Claire more letters during the ten days after 
she had suggested their engagement should 
be broken off, than he had done during all 
the time he had been in London. She 
read them through with a perplexed look 
in her eyes, they seemed so bereft of life 
and spirit ; and Lady Laura, as she watched 
her without venturing on any remark, re- 
joiced that she had arranged a plan for 
continental travel, since thus she hoped the 
faint link which still bound them together 
would break of itself without compulsion. 

For Lady Laura saw that Claire's only 
chance of happiness now was to be at once 
and for ever free from Matthew — there must 
be no half measures, no halting between 
two opinions. Claire wrote to Matthew 
sometimes kind sisterly letters — full of in- 
terest and good advice, if scarcely as loving 
as they erst were ; for some reason, which 



1 48 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

was not defined even to herself, she did not 
tell him she was leaving England ; perhaps 
she dreaded lest, on discovering that this 
separation was more tangible than when 
only the distance between London and 
Swanover lay between them, he might seek 
in hot haste to renew the old love ; or per- 
haps she did not wish to add one more drop 
to that cup of bitterness, which she knew 
full well he was drinking over George's 
death. Be it what It might, save for gentle 
sympathy, she was silent, and on a cold 
December morning, before the country 
neighbours should begin to talk of Christmas 
festivities, Claire and her mother, with one 
faithful old attendant, set out for Dover, 
bound for the sunny south, which Lady 
Laura had not visited since she was a child, 
and which to Claire was an unknown land. 
Yet she evinced no girlish curiosity — poor 
Claire, it was as though the well-spring 
of expectation had suddenly been dried up. 



Farewell Sweet Dream. 149 

From Dover she wrote a farewell note to 
Matthew, telling him she was going abroad 
for a few months, and then with the fragments 
of the snapt cord coiled about her heart, she 
followed her mother on board the steamer. 

What Matthew's feelings were when he 
received that letter it were impossible to 
describe, since he scarcely knew himself; 
but perhaps relief was supreme. Claire was 
right ; mixing with the great London world 
had made him see things from a different 
aspect, and, moreover, he was still dwelling 
in Lord Beaurepaire's house, under the fas- 
cinating influence of Lady Valentina. His 
father and mother had come to London ; but, 
notwithstanding her great grief, which per- 
haps was the only genuine thing her life had 
yet produced, Mrs Desborough was not so 
utterly lost to all sense of worldly aggran- 
disement as to desire Matthew to quit the 
Beaurepaire's house in order to dwell under 
the same roof with herself. Strange the 



1 50 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

amount of snobbism that not infrequently 
develops itself in the characters of those 
who, by birth and position, are themselves 
qualified to be among the leaders of society. 
Mrs Desborough was prepared to cringe to 
the duchess and to Lord Beaurepaire, while 
at the same time she gave herself little airs 
of superior wisdom, which showed at once 
that though she regarded them as social 
deities, she was not exactly inclined to cede 
the place as a clever woman. How much 
more overpowering would have been her 
deferential treatment of Lady Valentina, had 
not her behaviour been tempered by sorrow, 
it were difficult to decide ; as it was, re- 
dundant gratitude was the special quality in 
which she elected to excel — gratitude for all 
the kindness shown to her beloved Matthew ; 
and probably it was as useful as any other in 
bringing about the intimate relations which 
she desired to see existent between the two 
families. 



Farewell Sweet Dream. 1 5 1 

There was something about Mrs Des- 
borough which was especially attractive to 
Lady Valentina. In the first place she re- 
cognised at once her intellectual superiority — 
perhaps the adulation she personally received 
had some share in her keen-sightedness ; 
then she regarded her as a thorough gentle- 
woman, untainted by any of the tricks of 
slang and bye-play which mar so many of 
those who inherit even high descent, but 
which were particularly distasteful to Lady 
Valentina. 

' True, Mrs Desborough might be just 
slightly a bore with her hyper-prudery and 
ultra-particularity of detail, but then was not 
that infinitely preferable to women of Mrs 
Tremayne's type ? ' quoth the Lady Valentina 
to herself during her solitary meditations. 
Since George's death, Mrs Desborough's 
sentiments about Violet Tremayne had 
greatly modified ; as she could not injure 
him by marrying him, perhaps she liked her 



152 Sackcloth and Bj^oadcloth. 

all the better for having thought about him ; 
and that Mrs Desborough had been attracted 
by Violet Tremayne's ways on their first 
introduction there is little doubt. 

The day. after her arrival in town, Violet had 
called-in just the little half-mourning garments 
which etiquette demands out of compliment. 
She had been admitted from a sort of mistake, 
owing to her usual at home-edness in the 
ducal house, and once having succeeded in 
seeing Mrs Desborough, it were strange if 
her re-establishment in favour had not from 
that moment been complete. Her manners 
were so winning, so endearing, that they 
went straight to the bereaved mother's heart, 
and she felt that were her son restored to 
her, she could almost give him to this 
charming little woman. That Mrs Des- 
borough, keen reader of character though 
she was, would always be more attracted by 
Violet than by Lady Valentina, there is no 
doubt, and yet the one was noble-minded. 



Farewell Sweet Dream. 153 

grand, and altogether worthy ; while the 
other — well, she was Bohemian and in- 
triguing in the very extreme. The Rev. 
Lawrence Sivewriorht was not far wrono;- in 
the estimate he had drawn of Mrs Tre- 
mayne's character, though he might morally 
receive his 'quietus with a bare bodkin,' 
before he proceeded much farther with his 
strictures on the subject, that is, if he allowed 
the lady herself to become an courant with 
them. 

Mrs Desborough had not been two days 
in London before she discovered how de- 
cidedly antipathetic were Violet and Lady 
Valentina, and, wise woman as she was, 
she was carefully silent to the latter on the 
subject of the daily visits Mrs Tremayne 
paid her, and which each day she felt more 
and more that she should miss, if by any 
fortuitous circumstance they should be dis- 
continued. And whilst his daughter com- 
placently hugged the belief that, since the 



154 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

night of the fatal ball, Mrs Tremayne 
and her father had not seen each other, 
they meanwhile not infrequently met in 
Mrs Desborough's drawing-room, and so 
pointedly attentive was the old earl, that 
Mrs Desborough began after a while to see 
through the smoked glass they had at first 
held up before her ; merely judging, however, 
with much discretionary prudence, that Mrs 
Tremayne must be the piece of perfection 
she deemed her, since Lord Beaurepaire, re- 
nownedly the most difficult of men, accorded 
her so high a place in his esteem. Thus 
within a month of George Desborough's 
death, before the tears shed to his memory 
had been dried up, two new friendships — for 
they were scarcely love-knots, at least not 
yet — had arisen among those whom he 
estimated as his own particular belongings. 

But he had gone to his rest — they might 
for him, henceforth, mate as they listed ; 
while poor little Claire Bailey, exiled in a 



Farezuell Siveet Dream. \ 5 5 

foreign land, had of her own free will given 
an open field to the rival of whom she 
scarcely suspected the existence. So, in that 
ever-changing kaleidoscope society, do new 
pictures and amalgamations daily present 
themselves to the vigilant observer. 




CHAPTER X. 



A GUIDING STAR. 




ijj#0 you think I ought to go back 
to Mr Wharton's ? I will be 
guided entirely by you. Give me 
your opinion as what I ought to do/ says 
Matthew Desborough, as he is lounging on 
the sofa in Lady Valentina's boudoir, still 
allowed, on account of his recent indisposi- 
tion, an amount of liberty which no other 
male had ever previously been permitted in 
the presence of the stately Valentina. 

She is sitting in a chaise longue by the fire 
looking very regal in a tight - fitting black 
velvet dress, with a large ruffle of creamy lace 
about her neck. She drops the book she had 



A Guiding Star. 1 5 7 

been reading steadily for more than half- 
an-hour, and looks at Matthew as though, 
even durine the last three weeks of intimate 
acquaintance with him, she has scarcely yet 
become accustomed to these sudden appeals. 
If she had been watching him instead of 
reading her book, she would have been 
aware that he meantime had never turned 
a page, while the working of his expressive 
face would have told her that in his mind 
at that moment there was subject matter 
for whole volumes. But Lady Valentina 
was not in the habit of noting signs ; to 
her matter-of-fact nature they had but little 
meaning. Matthew had gone through a 
perfect mental tempest, while she had steadily 
perused the rather dull pages of some travels 
in Persia, and she had known nothing of it. 
Now, however, that she was addressed, she 
took the matter in hand practically, and at 
once, as was her wont ; her first remark 
being a question, — 



158 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

* What do your father and mother wish ? ' 

* My father is so knocked down by my 
poor brother's death that he gives no 
opinion ; of course he does not think I 
am worthy to fill his place, and he is right. 
Oh ! Lady Valentina, if it were not that 
my mind is so ill at ease, my faith so 
shaken, I should often wish that I were 
lying beside poor George ; or, better still, 
were lying there instead of him.' 

* Hush ! Mr Desborough ; pray do not 
talk in that strain. A shaken faith ! Why 
should your faith be shaken } You come 
of an old family who have been firm church, 
men for years. Fanaticism and heresy, my 
dear friend, are invariably the result of 
disease ; as you grow stronger, you will 
lose these vague waverings.' 

Conservative alike in religion and politics. 
Church and State were the golden words 
inscribed on Lady Valentina's life banner. 

* That is what every one tells me — that 



A Guiding Star. 159 

I am ill, weak alike in mind and body,' said 
Matthew querulously. * And yet, only this 
morning, my mother was urging me to walk 
alone — to take counsel of no man, but 
follow the unbiassed dictates of my own 
feelings.' 

' Well,' answered Lady Valentina, ' let 
us see how we can work out Mrs Des- 
borough's plan. Let us jot down the 
points at issue, with their pros and cons ; 
and, having considered the latter carefully, 
accept or reject them according to their 
weight. Are you agreeable to abide by 
this arrangement } ' 

* To have a fixed line of action marked 
out for me, would be the commencement 
of a new epoch of happiness.' 

' Exactly. Now, the first question is. 
Shall I return to Mr Wharton's to improve 
my mind, and render myself more fit to 
become a responsible member of the con- 
stitution ? Against going back, — coercion 



1 6o Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

is a nuisance, and nursing the quirks of my 
own brain a pastime in which convalescence 
invariably delights.' 

' Oh, Lady Valentina ! you are making fun 
of the whole concern.' 

* Fun ? ' and Lady Valentina looked in- 
tensely surprised ; it was the first time in 
her whole life that she had ever been ac- 
cused deliberately of committing so heinous 
an offence. 

* Fun ? ' she repeated, * there must surely 
be a visible line somewhere between common 
sense and fun.' 

*You are treating me a little bit like a 
school-boy,' said Matthew, turning away 
with a flushed face. ' And I have been 
out of leading strings some time.' 

* It strikes me you gave them to me to 
hold. I am sorry I misunderstood you,' 
and she took up her book as though pro- 
posing to return once more to the per- 
usal of the Persian travels. 



A Gttiding Star. i6i 



But Matthew had no intention of giving 
up the discussion so readily. He loved 
argument, but then he liked it to move round 
a circle. A beginning and an end were 
definite existences with which he could not 
grapple ; thus Lady Valentina's practical 
answers to the first questions he had set 
her tormented him, but he went on, as If 
desirous to pursue the subject, — 

' You see, If I go back to Wharton's, I 
shall hear the perpetual discussion of sub- 
jects bearing on logic, metaphysics, philo- 
sophy, and all that catalogue ; and if I 
do not go back — ' 

' You will still live In the world and hear 
those subjects frequently discussed, without 
having gone through the course of study 
which will enable you to understand them/ 

* Lady Valentlna, does It ever occur to you 
to believe in any of these new ideas ? ' and Mat- 
thew sat down on a footstool at Lady Valen- 
tina's feet, and looked up at her earnestly. 

VOL. II. L 



I 62 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

* I am a Beaurepaire,' she answered 
proudly, 'hence a churchwoman.' 

Matthew twisted himself round, fronting 
the fire, his arms embracing his knees, as 
he sat looking at it with a glowing face, and 
eyes that shone like the stars in heaven. 

' I wonder what Sivewright really seriously 
believes,' he said after a short pause. 

* In the constitution,' she answered, ' or he 
is not an Englishman.' 

It had been Matthew's lot of late to meet 
people holding varied creeds, both religious 
and political ; but no one had yet crossed his 
path who took his stand-point of faith on 
exactly the same ground as did Lady Valen- 
tina. She believed rigidly, firmly, zealously, 
because disbelief would have been a flaw in 
the requirements society demands from the 
noble daughter of a noble house. To read 
controversial books, or dispute in any way 
the faith of her ancestors, would never have 
occurred to her for an instant. She went to 



A Guiding Star. 163 



church regularly on Sunday mornings and on 
the chief red letter days, she subscribed to 
several public charities, made Christmas gifts 
and Easter offerings, led a strictly moral and 
truthful life, but knew naught of spirituality 
or mysticism. * High and dry,' on the old 
established last century model — such was 
Lady Valentina's creed ; for the first time, 
perhaps it was likely to prove advantageous 
to another mind, since the steady machinery 
which actuated her was exactly the regulative 
power which was wanting to Matthew. Pos- 
sibly he felt that her strong unshaken faith 
would act as a prop to his over-scrupulous 
inquiries, and he was therefore inclined to be 
honestly guided by the opinions of another. 

Lady Valentina was firm as granite — there 
was nothing of the shuttlecock about her — at 
least so Matthew decided in his mind as 
he sat at her feet and looked at the fire. He 
never asked himself whether the drawing 
towards her, which he undeniably felt, was 



1 64 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

entirely mental, or whether physical attributes 
had their share therein. Or perhaps it was 
gratitude for kindly nursing which was filling 
him with strong regard and making him feel a 
longing that this regal-looking passive woman 
should take the reins of his life-chariot In her 
firm fair hands, and guide those unreliable 
steeds, Scruple and Self-reproach, as he could 
never succeed In guiding them himself. Be 
the exact definition of his feelings what It 
might, It was to her his thoughts wandered 
as they passed quickly away from the contem- 
plation of Mr SIvewrlght's belief, and Lady 
Valentlna's finely balanced equilibrium re- 
ceived a fresh shock as he asked, very 
unexpectedly, dashing away with his usual 
impetuosity from the last subject under 
discussion, — 

' Lady Valentina, did you ever see any 
one like me before ? Do you think my 
quirks and difficulties perfectly unamenable 
to discipline ? * 



A Gtciding Star, 165 

She looked at him for a moment in some 
surprise, then she folded her arms on the 
velvet skirt, and, leaning on them, brought 
her head down more on a level with his as 
he sat below her. 

' I think you are a very troublesome boy,' 
she said smilincr ; ' but troublesome children 
are often cured by coercion.' 

Now Matthew did not exactly relish the 
idea of being treated as a child by Valentina 
— still he did not attempt to resent it, but said 
in very low tones, — 

* Coercion from you ; yes, I could bear it 
very patiently. Punish me as much as you 
will, I shall never complain.' Lady Valen- 
tina blushed. 

Unparalleled coincidence ! Why should 
these words of Matthew's call up a blush 
on a pale cold cheek, on which till now 
the colour had never deepened for any 
speech or thought. 

' I do not wish to punish you,' she said, * I 



1 66 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

would far rather — ' and she stopped for a 
second, ' see you happy.' 

' Ah ! much of my prospective happiness 
lies in your hands. You have the power to 
make or mar my future.' 

Had he quite forgotten Claire Bailey al- 
ready, or did he only mean that the agency 
of the Intellectual affinity which bound him 
to Valentlna would make his happiness. It is 
a question which at that moment he would 
have been utterly incapable of answering. 

The glow on her face deepened, but she 
rose quickly so that he should not re- 
mark it. 

' This conversation is not good for an in- 
valid,' she said a little hurriedly, ' you ought 
to be out walking in the sunshine.' 

Matthew sprang to his feet. 

* Already am I to be punished by being 
sent away. Oh, Lady Valentlna, one moment 
before you begin to subject me to a system. 
Promise sometimes to temper your treatment 



A Guiding Star, 167 

with mercy, and occasionally to be kind and 
good, and — loving.' 

The last word made Lady Valentlna wince, 
but she did not treat it as an impertinence, 
as might have been supposed ; she only said 
quite playfully, — 

* What a silly boy you are ; one would 
think I was a perfect Tartar.' 

' Instead of the kindest and most adorable 
woman in the universe. Oh, Lady Valen- 
tina ! how should I ever have got through 
all this trying time without you ? You have 
been my good genius ; only tell me how I 
can in some degree show my gratitude and 
requite you, however infinitesimally, for all 
you have done for me.' 

* Really, Mr Desborough, you will be 
quite ill if you excite yourself in this way ; 
if you want to please me, do be a little 
amenable to reason.' 

' Yes. I have promised, and you have the 
right to hold me to my word/ 



1 68 Sackcloth afid Broadcloth. 

'You don't mean really that you expect 
me to arrange your life for you ? I am not 
clever enough to — not capable — besides, what 
will Mrs Desborough think ? ' 

' Oh, my mother is not likely to interfere 
with my affairs when she knows they are 
in such safe hands.' 

' It is impossible, Mr Desborough ; you do 
not know what you are asking.' 

* When I was ill in body, physically incap- 
able of acting for myself, you nursed me, 
fed me, looked after me ; do you regard 
the mind as inferior to the body that you 
refuse to bestow on it a portion of the 
tender treatment the body has received ? ' 
and Matthew followed her to the window, 
where she had taken refuge from a con- 
versation which visibly alarmed and moved 
her. 

' Why have you selected me for this 
office ? To be the body's nurse is 
womanly ; but to tutor and teach requires 



A G7iiding Star, 169 

an amount of intellect and learninof which 
I do not possess.' 

'Intellect and learning, avaunt!' cried 
Matthew excitedly. * I have been lectured 
enough by so-called clever people ; hence- 
forth I will choose my own mentor, and, if 
I mistake not, you have already accepted 
the office. So, Lady Valentina, I will bear 
no refusal patiently — ' for she held out her 
hand as though objectingly. 

' Tut, tut, Mr Desborough. I shall be 
failing in my duty as body's nurse if I 
allow this conversation to go on.' 

* Promise then — ' 

She looked at him without speaking, as 
she pondered over the immense respon- 
sibility which this promise involved ; he, 
meanwhile, paced the room with feverish 
agitation. No movement on his part could 
have been more successful in gaining her 
speedy consent to his wishes ; for she feared 
the effect her refusal might have on his 



I 70 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

excitable temperament, and, stopping him, 
she just touched his sleeve with her jewelled 
hand. 

* I will do the best I can for you — you 
most irrational of men.' 

He cauo^ht her hand and kissed it fer- 
vently, while the woman's pale face was 
once more all aglow as she snatched it 
from him, and bade him go out and leave 
her to her reflections for an hour or so. 
Lad}^ Valentina's reflections, as a rule, were 
of a very orderly sequent nature, but, on 
this occasion they entirely deserted the 
beaten track, and declined in toto to be 
made subservient to will. This rash ex- 
citable, impassioned boy was a perfect 
anomaly in her life. She did not wholly 
understand him — how could she, since his 
nature was so utterly and entirely opposite 
to her own — and yet she had undertaken 
to help him through the tangled mazes of 
some tolerably thick brushwood. If she 



A Guiding Star. i 7 1 

were successful, and they found themselves 
together on a broad firm path, what then ? 
Practical Lady Valentina could not solve 
the problem, so she sat down and resumed 
once more the readinor of the Persian 
travels ; but during the last half-hour a 
sad flagging in interest had supervened, 
and ere many minutes the book was thrown 
on one side, to be taken up no more for 
that day it least. And Lady Valentina sat 
very pas lively for a long while ; probably 
she was mapping out Matthew Des- 
borough's future, a task many of his inti- 
mates would have judged that she was 
likely to perform but very imcompletely, 
since, from each of the several chapters 
into which she divided it, Claire Bailey 
was singularly absent. 



CHAPTER XI 



SCHEMING. 




INCE Matthew has gone back to 
Mr Wharton's, I do not see any 
reason for prolonging our visit 
to London,' Mrs Desborough was explain- 
ing to Mrs Tremayne, as they sat together 
in friendly chat in the duchess's drawing- 
room, Mrs Desborough's pro tern. 

' But the change is so good for you,' 
pleaded Violet, to whom Mrs Desborough's 
return to Vantage Park was anything but 
agreeable. For where then would be the 
daily meetings with Lord Beaurepaire ? 

* Mr Desborough misses his country avo- 
cations, his books, and his pet papers. I 



Scheming. 173 



must consider him ; he has not looked the 
same man since — since — that awful accident.' 

The difference between the squire of Van- 
tage and his wife lay in that he never spoke 
of poor George's dreadful death ; while she 
talked of it volubly and incessantly. 

' Yes, of course. I wonder you don't per- 
suade him to send for his papers and stay in 
town for a little. Can't he get books at the 
British Museum, or some of those places ?' 

Violet's literary knowledge was of the 
vaguest. 

' Oh, I daresay, yes, certainly ; and it 
would be delightful to be near you — you 
have cheered me up as no one else could 
have done ; but you will come and stay at 
Vantage, so we need not be separated.' 

Mrs Tremayne shook her head. 

* Circumstances keep me in London just 
at present, a little troublesome law business, 
or I suppose Julia would have insisted on 
my accompanying her back to Montarlis. 



1 74 Sackcloth and Bivadclotk. 

I am glad, however, since during the last 
few weeks it has enabled me to be of use 
to you.' 

' I am sure I don't know what I should 
have done without you, dear,' and Mrs Des- 
borough, with a sudden gush of affection, 
kissed Mrs Tremayne effusively. 

' Then you will stay just a week more. I 
am sure Mr Desborough does not dislike being 
in London half as much as you imagine, and 
we can't lose you yet, can we. Lord Beaure- 
paire ? ' and she held out her hand to the 
peer, who was announced at that moment. 

' Lose Mrs Desborough, no indeed. Where 
does she talk of going ? ' 

' Back to be mummified at Vantage. 
Such a mistake, when she is not in the 
best of spirits.' 

' You are all very good, too good,' and 
Mrs Desborough's black bordered handker- 
chief touched her eyelashes. 

' Matthew left us this morning,' went on 



Scheming, 175 



his lordship, thinking to avert her thoughts 
by interesting her in her surviving son, ' he 
was really looking quite brisk. He is a dear 
boy, and I have grown very fond of him, 
so has Valentina, who rarely takes to any 
one ; but she lectures Matthew, and arranges 
everything for him in a way it is quite 
wonderful to behold.' 

' I am sure I am most grateful to you 
both. Matthew, as you say, is a dear boy, 
his loving affectionate nature will fully repay 
any sacrifices made for him. Ah ! I was 
blessed in both my sons, pray God this one 
may be spared to me. Do you approve of 
Mr Wharton as a tutor for Matthew, Lord 
Beaurepaire ? ' 

' As tutors go, yes. But since Matthew, 
under the different circumstances in which 
he is now placed, will probably not take 
orders, it seems to me his best tutor would 
be the world. He has no fault save that 
he knows too little of life.' 



I 76 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' And that is scarcely a grievous one ; 
but you are right, Matthew is almost too 
good.' 

' Not too good, Mrs Desborough, but too 
scrupulous. We must see if amongst us we 
cannot rub the edge off some of his scruples ; 
for a little while, however, I daresay he will 
do very well at Wharton's.' 

Mrs Tremayne got up and shook her 
skirts and her curls — this conversation bored 
her — she had not come there to listen to a 
panegyric on Matthew, who, even though he 
had become an elder son, was to her a totally 
uninteresting object. 

' I must go,' she said, examining with atten- 
tion a vase on the mantel-shelf as she spoke. 
She had not the slightest intention of going ; 
but it was one of her habits to be perpetually 
on the move, ever seemingly oppressed by 
an amount of business she had to get through, 
-''1 of which could very conveniently have 
been postponed sine die ; but then the general 



Scheming, 1 7 7 



fuss that encircled Mrs Tremayne would have 
been non-existent, and she would have lost 
half her identity. 

* Going ! ' exclaimed both Lord Beaure- 
paire and Mrs Desborough as in one breath. 
It was very evident that Mrs Tremayne had 
made herself very necessary to both of them 
during the last few days. 

* I have so much to do.' 

* What can you have to do, I wonder 1 ' 
asked his lordship. 

* Well, I have to order a dress at Elise's 
for her Grace of Montarlis. I have to go 
and scold the cleaner for sending home my 
new lace curtains all in holes. I have to go 
to one or two house agents to see if I can 
let my house till the end of next season. 
Heigho ! what it is to be poor ! And I have 
to go and get an estimate for doing a cer- 
tain amount of whitewashing and papering 
to the same. If that is not a catalogue of 
necessity's obligations, I don't know what is.' 

VOL. II. M 



I yS Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' My dear child, you need not go to-day 
about the house — to-morrow will do quite 
as well,' suggested Mrs Desborough. 

But it was towards Lord Beaurepaire that 
Violet looked to see the effect of her speech, 
most of which was pure fiction. There was 
a curious expression on his face, to say the 
least of it, and it augered well for the future, 
she thought. In fact she did not doubt but 
the business would have been settled long 
ago, save for Lady Valentina's palpable dis- 
approval. True, they had met but seldom 
since the ball, and then only by chance at 
Mrs Desborough's ; yet Violet felt it were 
easier to go on a pilgrimage to the frigid 
zone, than to attempt to make any way 
among the icebergs which debarred her from 
all entrance into Lady Valentina's good 
graces. 

But to return to the present position. 

Lord Beaurepaire, having recovered from 
the shock the idea of losing Mrs Tre- 



Scheming. 1 79 



mayne's society in London for the whole of 
the next season had given him, said rather 
pointedly, — 

* Pray do not be in a hurry to do so rash 
a thing. There is no saying what may 
happen between this and the season ; wait, 
at least, till after Christmas.' 

' Nothing is at all likely to happen/ cried 
Violet. ' I have no rich relations to die, 
and I am so overhoused that it swallows 
all my income — in fact, I am thinking of 
sitting on my doorstep with my mouth open 
like a bird waiting to be fed.' 

Both her friends laughed, and Violet, 
having obtained what she wanted — namely 
the whole attention — went on chattering. 

' Something I must do to live. The stage 
would suit me best, only I am afraid to my 
appeal, " Walk up, walk up, ladies and 
gentlemen," all my friends would immedi- 
ately walk down and leave me shivering 
outside the pale of society.' 



1 80 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

* Do you think you would have the 
nerve to act in pubhc ? ' asked Mrs Des- 
borough. 

* Nerve ! good gracious ! That is just what 
I have in abundance. At twelve years old I 
could jump through a hoop with anybody.' 

* Jump through a hoop ! Did you ever 
try ? ' and Mrs Desborough's voice was so 
reprovingly astonished that Mrs Tremayne 
coloured up. 

* What have I not tried ? ' she answered. 
* I was once a sad tom-boy ; but poverty 
stops most things, even vices. No ; I don't 
think I'll take to the stage, it is too naughty. 
Fish is a wonderfully money-making trade, 
that is what I will go In for/ and she began 
to wander about the room, singing ' Caller 
Herrin' ! ' in that clear rich voice of hers, 
so as thoroughly to entrance both her 
hearers. 

In fact, Mrs Tremayne was in the full 
swing of triumph, when a most unexpected 



Scheming. 1 8 1 



and unwelcome visitor was announced ; more 
unwelcome than could even have been Lady 
Valentina herself. It was none other than 
the Rev. Lawrence Sivewright, whom every 
one had supposed to be safe in the bosom 
of his flock at Fernwood. He could scarcely 
believe his ears when he first heard such 
festal strains proceeding from a room which, 
judging from his last interview with Mrs 
Desborough, he believed must be the abode 
of mourning, nor in fact his eyes when, 
having crossed the threshold, he saw Mrs 
Tremayne. Was it not enough that he 
had to contend with the presence of this 
lady at Montarlis Casde ? Little did he 
expect to find her on equally intimate terms 
with his older and more sagacious ally, Mrs 
Desborough. Having shaken hands with 
his old friend, who was really glad to see 
him, though she assumed the most afflicted 
manner the moment he appeared, he 
turned to Violet, and the look they gave 



1 82 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

each other showed plainly that under the 
civility with which they managed to get 
through a greeting, there was a well-spring 
of ill-feeling which, on one side or the other, 
must some day bubble up. But Lord Beau- 
repalre had to be introduced to the clergy- 
man, and in the hearty meeting of the two 
men, known to each other so well by re- 
pute, the existent animosity between Violet 
and Mr Sivewright passed unnoticed. 

' I am only in town for two days. I 
came up on some personal business — nothing 
of importance. More, perhaps, to get rid 
of a little country mould,' was the vicar's 
answer to Mrs Desborough's questioning. 

' How is the squire ? ' 

' Very dejected — very sadly dejected. We 
are both of us terribly broken down.' 

The Rev. Lawrence wondered whether 
'Caller Herrin'!' would have a beneficial 
effect on the squire ; but save by a smile 
which Mrs Desborough's despondent mien 



Scheming. 183 



did not seem to occasion, he gave no sign, 
only asked, — 

' And Matthew — how is Matthew ?' 
' Ask Lord Beaurepaire ; he knows the 
best and latest news of Matthew/ 

* Always Matthew,' murmured Mrs Tre- 
mayne to herself, as she walked away to a 
distant .window and stood playing with the 
blind tassel. ' Always Matthew. How sick 
I am of his quirks and his fancies. I wish 
— well, I wish the stately Valentina would 
marry him. By St Hymen, that is a lordly 
idea ! I'll see if I can't promote it. It 
would get rid of her at all events. I wish I 
could marry the parson to somebody. If it 
were to the angel of destruction, I should not 
much care ; but I'll be even with him some- 
how,' and having given vent to her feelings 
in this little stage-aside, she strolled back 
to the fireplace, where the two gentlemen 
were still discussing Matthew's prospects con 
amove, Mrs Tremayne to a certain extent 



1 84 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

was right ; it had become a sort of trouble- 
some habit with all his friends to discuss 
Matthew's affairs exhaustively, possibly be- 
cause he himself set them the example by 
so constantly seeking counsel from every 
one. 

Mrs Tremayne sat down by Mrs Des- 
borough. 

* I really am going now/ she said, * you 
must have so much to talk over with Mr 
Sivewright that you can't want me, or 
Lord Beaurepaire either. Are you walk- 
ing ? Can I put you down anywhere ? ' she 
went on, turning to him. ' I am going to- 
wards St James' Street' 

Mrs Tremayne was too much bored by 
Mr Sivewright's advent to extend her visit, 
but she had no intention of leaving Lord 
Beaurepaire behind her to hear any dis- 
advantageous remarks which she thought 
very possibly might be made. 

* Thank you very much. I am going to 



Scheming. 185 



the Carlton. I shall be delighted if you will 
set me down/ 

' You have been missed in the north ; but 
who does not miss Mrs Tremayne ? ' said Mr 
Sivewright as they shook hands, ' though it 
is amusing — really amusing.' 

* Who ? what ?' asked Violet in some 
trepidation, though curious to know what 
he meant. 

' Oh, only a very odd man I was talking 
to the other day, who has taken quite a fancy 
to you — sees some likeness to an old love he 
tells me.' 

* Who on earth is it ? * 

* I fancy you know him very well ; his 
name is Varley.' 

' Cheap Jack ! Yes, he is a great friend of 
mine.' 

* My dear Violet ! ' interposed Mrs Des- 
borough a little reprovingly. 

' Of course I don't mean exactly a friend ; 
only I patronise him ; he amuses me.' 



1 86 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 



' While he evidently has an immense ad- 
miration for you — says you resemble some 
Pearl he once knew in his early youth.' 

Mrs Tremayne grew white enough to 
merit the soubriquet, but she said with a very 
off-hand manner, — 

' I don't know anything about his recollec- 
tions, only he is a funny little man who 
makes me laugh, so I toss him a half-crown 
occasionally.' 

' Next time you see him ask him about 
Pearl. He told me the whole story.' 

* Oh, I never encourage those sort of 
people in telling stories ; they are, as a rule, 
far too prolix.' 

' Yes, he might be so, it is very probable. 
Good-bye, Mrs Tremayne, I daresay we shall 
meet soon at Montarlis.' 

' Good-bye, Mr Sivewright.' 

' I never saw Sivewright before ; he 
seems a highly cultivated delightful man, 
very unlike the usual run of countrv 



Scheming. 187 



parsons,' said Lord Beaurepaire, when they 
were seated side by side in the widow's 
brougham. 

' Don't trust him, Lord Beaurepaire. He 
is a sort of man who will say anything. 
He is clever and polished enough and 
all that ; but he would not mind swearing 
away a woman's reputation.' 

' The basest sin a man can commit. I 
hope you are labouring under a mistake.' 

' Well, Mr Sivewright always will have 
what he calls the truth, and whatever flaw 
there might be in any one's character, he 
would expose it, probably exaggerate it, for 
the sake of his beloved truth.' 

* Ah, that is rather another reading ; but I 
perceive he is no favourite of yours.' 

' I hate him,' replied Violet very decidedly. 

Lord Beaurepaire laughed as he remarked, 
that ' it was always desirable to hear of 
hating, since it made its opposite so much 
more worth having.' 



1 88 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

Violet smiled, and looked up at him with 
a little blush ; but, somewhat to her disap- 
pointment, his conversation did not become 
more personal. In fact it had not ascended 
above mere platitudes when they arrived at 
the Carlton, and save that he did just 
squeeze the tips of her fingers as he ex- 
pressed a hope that he should meet her next 
day at Mrs Desborough's, she would have 
been inclined to think that the chase was 
a useless one. As it was, she went on 
her way ruminating and uttering invectives 
against Lady Valentina and Mr Sivewright 
by turns. 

* The first must be married to Matthew ; 
the second must be silenced — but how .'^ ' 

And then she fell into a train of thouofht 
about that ' Pearl ' story. 

* What could Cheap Jack have been say- 
ing ? What could he know ? She was like a 
Pearl he had once known ? She would have 
to go back to Montarlis and find out several 



Scheming, 1 89 



things — but Lord Beaurepaire ! Why, Mrs 
Desborough must ask the Beaurepaires to 
Vantage, it was only the right thing to 
do after their kindness to Matthew. The 
mourning — oh, that did not matter, since they 
had been through the whole thing ; of course 
that was the plan. She was doubtless 
quite as desirous about Matthew's marriage 
with Valentina, as it behoved an anxious 
mother to be. Quel parti ! Yes, yes, there 
lay a map of the next few weeks in a nut- 
shell' 




CHAPTER XII. 




TEA AT THE VICARAGE. 

HE bell at Ravensholme Church Is 
ringing for evensong — service on 
week days in the winter is at four 
o'clock. The Rev. Luke Lently, in his cas- 
sock, passes quickly across the narrow path 
which leads directly from his study to the 
back door of the church. Having put on 
his surplice and gone into his stall on the 
right side of the chancel, he glances his eye 
over the congregation. Mrs Giles is well 
in front, the school mistress in her usual 
seat. Two old women from the alms-house 
are a few seats behind her, a nursing sister 
to whom Mrs Giles is strongly antagonistic, 



Tea at the Vicarage. 191 

in the shade by the wall. Yes, the whole 
week-day congregation is there ; nay more, 
as far he can see by the dimly burning 
candles, there is another and an unusual 
worshipper ; but recognition is impossible. 
He begins to repeat the service with rapid 
indistinctness, nor does he make any farther 
attempt to discover who the stranger is till 
he advances to the eagle to read the first 
lesson ; he can, however, only discern that it 
is a lady who has seated herself at the 
farther end of the church behind the 
sister. 

* Mrs Giles will be able to tell him who 
she is,' he decides at last, and proceeds with 
the service, giving the matter no farther 
consideration. Half-past-four ! it is all over, 
and the vicar is standing on the church step, 
waiting to see the last candle carefully put 
out by a very little boy, who acts as acolyte, 
sacristan, and sweeper by turns. 

* How do you do, Mr Lently 1 ' 



192 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

In the short early December afternoon it 
is nearly dark. 

The vicar removes his soft hat by the 
crown in deference to the tone of the 
speaker's voice, for he cannot see who 
addresses him till she comes up quite close. 

' Mrs Tremayne ! ' 

And the sudden appearance of Beelzebub 
himself could scarcely have surprised him 
more than that of Violet at a week-day 
service, or in fact at Ravensholme Church 
at all ; for so antipathetic were Mr Lently s 
practices to the duke's ideas, that although 
Montarlis Castle was in Ravensholme parish, 
the entire household invariably attended 
divine service at Fernwood. 

' You seem surprised/ was Violet's an- 
swer to the vicar s exclamation ; ' but why 
should I not come to Ravensholme ? It is 
a prettier church than Fernwood, I think ; 
at all events there is some aesthetic display, 
that's the right term, isn't it ? Mr Sivewright 



Tea at the Vicarage. 193 

is so hard and intellectual, so I thought I 
would come and pay you a visit.' 

* I am sure I am delighted to see you. I 
trust you will return very often, and that — ' 

' Don't begin to preach, Mr Lently ; I am 
horribly wilful. If you don't let me have my 
own way, I shall not come at all.' 

The vicar smiled at her bluntness, which 
was rather an unusual element in the life of 
obsequious respect that he commanded, and 
for that very reason perhaps attractive. 

' You haven't got a large congregation, I 
must say. I wonder if Sivewright would have 
more people if he set up these daily services.' 

At the name of his rival Mr Lently's brow 
lowered, but he did not venture on an 
answer, only observed that the evening was 
rather cold. 

* Cold, I should think it is cold in this 
bitinor east wind ! If I come into the vicar- 
age, will Mrs Lently give me some tea 
before I walk back to Montarlis ! ' 

VOL. II. N 



194 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Tea ! oh yes, certainly ; ' but there was 
an uneasy expression on the priestly coun- 
tenance. 

He made it an especial rule to keep his 
penitents carefully apart from his domestic 
circle, Into which even Mrs Giles but rarely 
penetrated, but this new truth-seeker seemed 
determined to break through every rule. 

' Tea at the vicarage — the chances were that 
there would be no milk, perhaps no tea in 
the house, or even It was possible not a whole 
cup to drink out of/ thus soliloquised the 
vicar, and then he looked round for Mrs Giles. 

* Mrs Giles, would you mind going on to 
the house and telling my wife that Mrs 
Tremayne Is coming to tea. In the meantime 
I should like to show you my Venetian 
reredos and a frontal which has just been 
worked for the church by one who bestows 
all her time in such offerings.* 

This latter part of the sentence was, of 
course, addressed to Violet ; the small boy 



Tea at the Vicarage. 195 

was recalled, a few candles were lighted, 
and Mr Lently spent at least a quarter of 
an hour in the exhibition of some of his 
treasures in art ; rather to Violet's surprise, 
be it said, for, unaccustomed to stray into 
ritualistic territory, she had scarcely cal- 
culated on finding so many pretty things 
in a village church, and lover of beauty as 
she was, Mr Lently rose in her estimation 
accordingly. At last however the exhibi- 
tion was over, and chatting pleasantly on 
matters in connection with it, they went up 
the little path to the vicar's study, passing 
through which they gained the interior of 
the house, from whence proceeded, as usual, 
the screams of many children. 

' I did not know you had a number of 
children ! ' remarked Violet when she heard 
the cries. * How many ? ' 

* Five,' he answered with a sigh. 

* The usual clerical quiver full,' she an- 
swered flippantly, with utter disregard for his 



196 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

feelings ; but how could she know that he 
regarded them as five separate sins. 

He opened the dining-room door. Mrs 
Lently had tortured herself into her best 
Sunday silk dress in anticipation of the guest 
announced by Mrs Giles, but she could not 
find any cuffs, or had none clean, so her arms 
hung bare out of full old-fashioned sleeves. 
Her collar was rumpled, while the bow of the 
ribbon she had tied hastily round her neck 
had slipped considerably on one side — as 
for her hair, well, even in days when 
untidy coifi'ures are reckoned fashionable, 
hers would scarcely pass muster. The 
tea had not yet made its appearance, and 
the fire, which had evidently been out, 
was feebly trying to burn up, and emitted 
every now and then an unpleasant little 
gust of smoke. A lamp which reeked of 
paraffin stood on the table, casting a sort 
of impertinent glare on the general dis- 
comfort of the room and on Mrs Giles' 



Tea at the Vicarage, 197 

features, as she sat looking on in grave 
disapproval. 

' Very glad to make your acquaintance, Mrs 
Lently,' said Violet, and she took the vicaress's 
chubby hand in hers, feeling as if she rather 
liked the fat moon-like face, weak and 
characterless though it was. ' Is this your 
youngest child ? He is a nice curly-headed 
fellow.' 

This to Master Bobbie, who presented a 
physiognomy so besmeared with jam that it 
would have been impossible for the most 
zealous devotee at the shrine of childhood 
to have kissed him. 

* So kind of you to give me some tea.' 
Not that there were any signs of that re- 
past, but Violet sat down, and while they were 
waiting for it an inquiring thought passed 
simultaneously through the other three brains 
as to what had brought her there. 

* I only came back from London yesterday,' 
she went on after a short rather uncomfort- 



198 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

able pause, Mr Lently having become abso- 
lutely silent since he had joined his family. 
' I travelled up with the Desboroughs. Such 
a large party — so pleasant. The Beau- 
repaires have come to stay at Vantage for a 
few weeks. Very good of them, for poor Mrs 
Desborough is sadly out of spirits, and as for 
the squire, I never saw any one so utterly 
broken.' 

' And Mr Matthew ? ' asked Mrs Lently. 

* Oh ! he is still in London. I daresay he 
will soon come home.' 

* I am very fond of Mr Matthew. He is 
always so good to the children. I am sorry 
he went away. He — ' Mrs Lently said, but 
she was interrupted by her husband. 

* It was the most evil day that ever dawned 
for Matthew.* 

* Mr Sivewright may be thanked for it,' 
observed Violet knowingly, * We all of us 
have a good deal to thank Mr Sivewright 
for. Eh, Mr Lently ? ' 



Tea at the Vicarage. 199 

* I owe him nothing,' was the Vicar of 
Ravensholme's dignified answer. 

* Not for one single mauvais tour — then all 
I can say is, you have much to be grateful 
for — but here comes the tea luckily, for I 
must make haste home, it is growing dark.' 

* It will give me great pleasure to accom- 
pany you as far as the gate at Montarlis.' 

The offer came from Mrs Giles, to whom 
Violet turned with a beaming smile. She 
was an oddity, and Violet delighted in oddities. 

That she had had some project in her head 
when she walked out of the beaten track in 
order to attend service at Ravensholme, and 
have tea at the vicarage, there is little doubt, 
though what it was had not transpired. 
While she sat there she made up her mind 
to come again ; everything was a novelty — 
down to the thick hunches of bread and 
butter which came in with the tea — and, as 
a novelty, priceless. She was quite resolved 
to make herself thoroughly agreeable, and 



200 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

she ate and drank and praised everything in 
a way that won both the women's hearts at 
once. Mr Lently alone laboured under a 
vague sort of feeling that she was poking fun ; 
but then he alone of the party knew how dif- 
ferent the appointments in the houses of the 
great were from those of his ill-regulated home. 
Vainly he strove to silence his wife's tongue 
as she chatted on about Bobbie's cough and 
Jacky's broken head, and how the kitchen 
chimney smoked, because Mary would not 
manage it properly, till at last he worked 
himself to a perfect acme of impatience, and 
saying he must go to his night school, left 
Violet to the tender mercies of the women. 
' They must make the best of it as long 
as he was not there to hear,' he said to him- 
self as he passed into his study, and very 
speedily, in the zeal of parochial work, forgot 
for a while the petty annoyances and dis- 
comforts of his daily life, which, though small 
in each detail, yet as a whole — 



Tea at the Vicarage. 201 

* Might shake the saintship of an anchorite.' 

In a very minutes Violet rose to depart. 
She had succeeded to a certain extent in her 
project — she had gained a footing in Ravens- 
holme Vicarage. She bade Mrs Lently 
quite an affectionate farewell, promising to 
come again very soon, and then she and 
Mrs Giles set out for a dark walk up the 
hill to Montarlis. She had not said 'nay' 
to the curious old widow's offer, not because 
she was in the least afraid of being out in 
the dark alone, but because she wanted to 
pick the widow's brains about what was 
going on in the neighbourhood generally. 
It had occurred to Violet that possessing 
the enemy she did in Mr Sivewright, it 
would be as well to gain all the information 
she could about his practices and habits, so 
as to use them to her own advantage as 
diplomacy should suggest, and where so 
likely to become well informed on these 
points as in the rivals camp ? * 



202 Sackcloth a7id Broadcloth. 

' You have lived in this neighbourhood 
for some time, I think ? ' she asked Mrs 
Giles before she had proceeded far. 

* Since Mr Lently came to Ravensholme.' 

* Oh, that is only two years ; but I sup- 
pose you know everybody ? ' 

' In the village ? Oh yes. I do a good 
deal of work under the vicar. Nothing w^Ill 
give me greater pleasure than to dispense 
any charities you may be inclined to bestow.' 

Violet laughed. 

* You know the old saying about charity 
beginning at home. I very often have not 
two gold pieces to chink together ; in fact I 
live a good deal on charity myself.' 

' My dear madam ! ' 

* It is quite true. If it were not for my 
friends I should be in the workhouse.' 

Mrs Giles, who had been admiring her 
pretty furs and well-fitting gown, thought 
she must be slightly demented when she 
made this announcement. 



Tea at the Vicarage. 203 

* You don't know anything about the 
system of tick that goes on in a certain world 
— so much the better for you.* 

* Indeed, no. We condemn it in the 
village as most reprehensible, and have 
almost succeeded in eradicating it.' 

* Quite right. I wish I could eradicate it, 
by having the ready coin ; but that is neither 
here nor there — tell me something of the 
workings of your parish. I know more 
about Sivewright s place.' 

But Violet scarcely expected the tirade her 
question called forth. The list of mother's 
meetings, night schools, day schools, services, 
instructions, meditations, that Mrs Giles 
gave as following in a perpetual routine 
in the parish, fairly took her breath 
away. 

* And how many inhabitants ? ' she asked. 

* About one hundred and fifty — all 
counted.' 

' Well, I pity them. All I can say is, if I 



204 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



had such a surfeit of good things, I should 
become bad for variety.' 

Mrs Giles leapt half across the road, as 
though a viper had struck her with its sting. 

* Oh, I daresay you think I am very 
wicked — so I am ; but what can one do 
if one has not the vocation to be orood.' 

'Pray for grace,' said the widow devoutly. 
' I am really sorry for you, lady ; you will 
pardon me saying it, but if you have had no 
ministrations but those of Mr Sivewright, 
it is not to be expected that light can have 
dawned on your dreary darkness.' 

* He is an able scholar and an eloquent 
preacher,' answered Violet in her flippant 
way ; * one must give the devil his due.' 

* Sermons are the snare of the godly,' was 
Mrs Giles' reply. 

'Did you ever hear Mr Sivewright preach?' 
' God forbid ! ' 

* Mercy, you don't mean to say that you 
hate him too ? ' 



Tea at the Vicarage, 205 



* I should be sorry to harbour a feeHng 
of hatred for any one. Personally, Mr Sive- 
wright is indifferent to me ; but I hold him 
in high reprobation for the lukewarm effort 
he is making in the Church's cause. As a 
young man, too, he was so bright and full of 
promise.' 

* You knew him in his youth ? Before he 
took orders ? ' 

'Yes.' 

* Gracious ! how interesting, and he was — 

* Clever always, spiritual never.' 

'Just so, and a little bit wild, like other 
young men, I have no doubt.' 

* He has never married,' said the widow 
shortly. 

' It never occurs to me that he is a marry- 
ing man ; but do you know any reason why 
he has omitted to fulfil this great social duty?' 

* I can put two and two together as well 
as another,' said Mrs Giles. ' I daresay if 
I were to rake my memory I could find a 



2o6 Sackcloth and Bi'oadcloth. 

few scraps which might be made to fit in 
so as to form a background to Fernwood 
Parsonage ; but it is not fitting that one 
devoted to good works, as I am now, should 
spend my time in idle words and idle 
reports.' 

* Of course not,' answered Violet hypo- 
critically, * It would be very wrong ; besides, 
Mr Sivewright might not like it. — You'll tell 
me every word before you are a week 
older, you stupid old woman,' was her 
mental determination. 

* For the matter of that, I should not study 
what he likes ; but we must each one work 
for our own soul, lady, and scandal is a 
grievous offence.' 

* I did hear once that Mr Sivewright has 
a wife hidden away somewhere,' said Violet, 
firing a stray shot. 

* Oh ! that's nonsense ; that isn't the story. 
He is not such a fool as to have committed 
himself in that way — it is something quite 



Tea at the Vicarage. 207 

different. But here we are at the Httle 
wicket leading to the MontarHs stables. 
You'll be quite safe now, and I shall be 
late for Compline, if I don't go back.' 

* I'll come and see you soon,' Violet 
called after her. 

' Oh ! visiting is idle work ; it's seldom 
you'll find me disengaged,' the widow 
grumbled as she sped down the hill. 

Mrs Tremayne walked slowly on, grum- 
bling too after her fashion. 

' Stupid old idiot ! why can't she speak ? 
I must hear that story, if I die for it. I 
shall have to invent a rack of some sort 
for this silent woman. Gracious, Jack ! is 
that you ? You made me start, coming so 
suddenly from under those trees in the 
gloaming ! ' 





CHAPTER XIII. 

HIGH PRESSURE. 

INCE Mr Sivewrlght had told Mrs 
Tremayne when they met in Mrs 
Desborough's drawing-room in 
London of Cheap Jack's reminiscences and 
personal liking for herself, her meetings with 
her low-born admirer had lost all their zest ; 
if he were going to make himself obnoxious 
by his remarks, the sooner she dropped his 
acquaintance the better, she conjectured. 
This unexpected meeting in the semi-dark- 
ness was then by no means pleasing to her. 

' I can't stop now,' she said hurriedly ; ' the 
duke will look like three days' rainy weather 
if he hears I have been wandering after dark. 



High Pressure. 209 

* May I see you safely to the house ? ' 

* No ; we are close to the stables, and it 
would look horrid.' 

' I want to tell you something — something 
very particular/ pleaded Varley. 

* What can you have to tell me ? What- 
ever it is it can't be very important, and it 
must keep.' 

' If you knew the hours I have spent in 
making up my mind to speak, you would 
not object to listen.' 

' It was obvious that this man was likely 
to prove troublesome if he were encouraged. 
She had been a fool for the sake of mere 
amusement to have put herself in the posi- 
tion to receive his impertinent familiarities ; 
but then she always was doing these stupid 
heedless things,' were the thoughts that 
passed rapidly through Violet's mind, while 
she said rather tartly, — 

' Because I have talked to you when I 
was in the humour, is no reason why you 

VOL. II. o 



2 1 o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

should detain me when I am not in the 
humour.' 

' No, madam, certainly not,' and Cheap 
Jack took off his hat and stood with it in 
his hand, looking at Violet very abjectly ; 
though fortunately she could not see him 
in the dark, or she would certainly have 
burst out laughing. ' But still if I might 
only tell you the story of little Pearl that 
I have spent my life in trying to find.' 

Violet gave an hysterical giggle as she 
said, striving to be facetious, — 

* A good many people spend their time 
looking for pearls ; but very few oysters 
yield them.' 

' I did find my Pearl once, only I lost it 
again,' persisted Varley. 

' Who are you ? ' asked Mrs Tremayne, 
all of a sudden changing her manner into 
one of interest, ' and who is Pearl ? Tell 
me in two words, for I can't stop.' 

' My Pearl was a little beauty who danced 



High Pressure. 2 1 1 

in a travelling show, and I was leading man 
in the same august company.' 

* You ! ' then she went on hurriedly. 
* Good gracious ! why do you tell me all 
this nonsense ? What do you suppose I 
care about your dancing dolls and ambling 
monkeys ? ' 

* I tell you because you are so like what 
my little Pearl would have been if she ever 
had had the chance of becoming a fine 
lady.' 

'MrVarley!' 

* I wasn't called Mr Varley in those days,' 
he said quietly, * simply Jack — Jack Lee. I 
didn't think I was warranted in giving my 
father's name, and he gentleman Varley in 
a brisk trade.' 

' And having told me this, what next ? ' 
asked Violet. 

' Nothing, lady, only thank you for listening. 
If you knew how much you remind me of 
little Pearl, you'd know what a kindness it is 



2 1 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

every time you are condescending enough to 
let me have five minutes' talk with you.' 

Violet laughed very excitedly, and then she 
half held out her hand to the Cheap Jack, 
but she speedily put it back again into the 
little muff she was carrying. In the dark he 
saw nothing of the movement. 

' Well, 1 7nust go now,' she said, ' on account 
of the duke. I'll meet you to-morrow at the 
old place in the wood if you like, and then you 
can tell me all the history of this said Pearl.' 

* Thank you, thank you, from the bottom 
of my heart ; thank you,' said the man so 
warmly as quite to astonish Violet, in whose 
nature, always employed in calculating the 
amount of gain to be derived from the various 
issues of life, warm-heartedness had never 
dreamed of seeking a place. 

Yet she was very pensive for a few 
seconds, when, having nodded a cheery 
farewell to her humble acquaintance, ' she 
strolled quite slowly towards a side entrance 



High Presstire. 213 

into the castle, by which means she hoped 
her late absence would pass unquestioned. 
So far she was successful ; she passed up 
sundry back staircases till she reached her 
own room, and did not meet even an in- 
quisitive servant. In a very few minutes 
she had tossed off her walking costume 
and was seated in a pretty dressing-gown 
by her own fire. The future lay toler- 
ably bright before her. Lord Beaurepaire 
seemed an easy prey, and would doubtless 
put his head at once into her silken noose, if 
only Lady Valentina were married. 

She did not even anticipate opposition from 
Mr Sivewright. 

' He'll be so glad to get me out of here and 
have dear Julia all to himself that he won't 
interfere this time. George Desborough was 
quite a different matter — how funny it all is, 
I wonder which of the two Mr Sivewright 
likes the best, Julia or Mrs Desborough. He 
seems to be equally aux petit soins with both. 



2 1 4 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

Oh ! how I hate that man. If old Mrs Giles 
can tell me a good story about him, I verily 
believe I'll kiss her, though she has a very 
repellant moustache, and is, I suspect, far 
too great a saint to wash herself,' then she 
broke off in her soliloquy for a few minutes 
and sat very still. 

' Little Pearl and Jack Lee,' she muttered 
at last, ' that is a queer story ; but then Varley 
is an odd man. Can it be possible that among 
the lower classes there are such things as con- 
stancy and devotion — it is very certain they 
don't exist among the upper ten — so he has 
not forgotten his little Pearl, strange, most 
passing strange,' and Mrs Tremayne ran her 
fingers through her short crisp curls and 
looked well pleased at the idea of having dis- 
covered a constant man, perhaps because the 
strong qualities necessary to develop such a 
character were totally unknown to herself. 
Her ruminations however were broken off 
at this juncture by a low tap at the door. To 



High Pressure. 2 1 5 

the ' Come in,' rather grudgingly given, it 
opened, and the duchess put her head in 
and looked round. 

* Oh ! it is you, Julia. Come and sit by 
the fire.' 

' Why have you not been in to tea ? ' 
asked the duchess, as she walked into the 
room. 

* Lazy, I suppose. It is awfully cosy here.' 
' Awfully cosy — my dear Violet, when will 

you be cured of slang.' 

' Never. It is as much part of me as my 
hair or my eyes.' 

* Nonsense, we can all cure ourselves of 
our faults ; but tell me, where have you been 
wandering to ? I heard of you at Mr 
Lently's.' 

' Already, news does fly fast in this northern 
district.' 

' Why did you go there ? ' 

' Why does one generally go to church, 
unless for religious purposes.' 



2 1 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Bah ! you should not do it. You will only 
annoy Mr Sivewrlght and the duke.' 

' Of which, pray, does your grace stand in 
the greater awe ? ' 

' I don't know ; they are both rather formid- 
able,' and her grace sat down ; ' but tell me, 
Vi, why did you go to Ravensholme '^, ' 

' Fancy asking me why I do anything ; 
because the whim of the moment dictated 
it, I suppose. I thought I should like to see 
in what Lently differed from Sivewright ; 
perhaps I wanted to deceide which were 
preferable — a priestly confessor or a divine 
autocrat.' 

' What nonsense you do talk.' 

* Granted ; but somehow my nonsense 
generally has an underlayer of sense in the 
form of a motive, which is more than can 
be said for most people.' 

' I wish I understood your motives.' 

' It would not do you any good. Her 
Grace of Montarlis will preserve her position 



High Pressure. 2 1 7 

much more immaculately, if she does not con- 
descend to understand the motives of ca^iaille 
like me.' 

' Tell me, Violet, did you love George 
Desborough ? ' 

' What can it matter since he is dead.' 
' But I want particularly to know.' 
' Ask his mother what she thinks. Really 
she is a joke, that woman, she cossets me 
and muches me as if I were the bereft widow 
of the dear deceased, whereas, if she had had 
the remotest inkling in his lifetime that I 
might one day become his wife, no epithet 
would have been sufficiently opprobrious for 
her to hurl at my inoffensive head.' 

* Mrs Desborough allows herself to be 
swayed by sentiment to an overwhelming 
extent, there is no doubt of it' 

* Yes, when the road is safe. She would 
soon banish the sentiment if she saw any 
danger from its whimsical flights. Oh, she 
can be as matter-of-fact as I am when 



2 1 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

she likes. If I were a woman of feeling, I 
should get up a protracted howl on that 
little puppet Claire Bailey's behalf.' 

' Hush, nonsense ; don't you Interfere. Of 
course Matthew is to marry Lady Valentina.' 

* Oh, don't alarm yourself, it suits my 
book exactly, only I don't quite see your 
manoeuvre.' 

' I like match-making,' said the duchess, 
stretching herself with a half yawn, ' it gives 
one importance. To tell you the truth, I had 
set my heart on your marrying poor George.' 

' And, failing George, what say you to Lord 
Beaurepaire ? ' and Violet burst out laughing 
at the duchess's look of utter bewilderment. 

' Never. You, Violet Tremayne, dare not 
fly as high as that.' 

'You, Julia Benson, quondam — but we will 
not enter into the quondams, you are now 
Julia, Duchess of Montarlls. Wherein lies 
the difference between us ? You have 
'' struck He." Why should not I '> ' 



High Pressu7^e, 2 1 9 

' I don't know ; but the Beaurepalres are 
so proud, if they knew.' 

'Just so; but they must not know, and 
it rests with you to keep them in the 
dark; 

* I have an idea that Mr Sivewright 
suspects,' and the duchess looked very pale 
and perturbed. 

* Exactly, he is a regular ferret ; but if 
you can't manage him you must sadly have 
forsaken your old cunning.' 

* I had hoped all that sort of thing was. at 
an end, and that henceforth I should live in 
peace.' 

' So you will, when I am Countess of 
Beaurepaire.' 

' Tell me what you wish me to do ? ' 
' I don't care what you do as long as 
you make Sivewright hold his tongue. It 
can't matter to him whether I marry Lord 
Beaurepaire or whether I don't. Lady Val- 
entina is not one of his penitents, by chance. 



2 20 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Tell him I am quite determined to make 
my own position in life, that I am sick of 
dependence, and that, if I am smashed, every 
one else shall be smashed too. We are all 
walking on ice, with a thaw hanging about. 
I even suspect I am on the track of a good 
story about his reverence.' 

'Now, I know what took you to Ravens- 
holme.' 

' Then you have discovered that I am 
in earnest. Know too that I have another 
powerful ally in Mr John Varley, alias 
Cheap Jack.' 

* My dear Violet, how can you take up 
with those low people ? ' 

' In order to become Lady Beaurepaire, 
I have already told you.' 

* But what can this Cheap Jack have to do 
with it ? ' 

* Oh, he'll give a hand in the general 
smash, he is much more ///with me than you, 
any of you, think. Now Julia, look here, 



High Pressure. 2 2 1 



nonsense apart — you must silence Slvewright 
forthwith — talk over Lady Valentina — in 
fact plane away all the bits of rough wood.' 

' And in return ? ' 

*0h, is it a case of give and take ? Well, 
in return you shall have a certain bundle of 
letters, which are at this moment hidden in 
my house in London, and you shall live 
happy ever after, the irreproachable, grand, 
good Duchess of Montarlis.' 

* If it were only possible,' she murmured, 
passing her white jewelled hand slowly 
across her brow. ' I will do my best ; but 
it seems so unlikely that you — shall I be 
doing my duty if I move in this matter ? ' 

'The letters,' exclaimed the other, 'surely 
they are worth a few silent lies. You really 
have grown too Sivewrightish and scrupul- 
ous — it is as well to sweep away the past 
before you set up for so much sanctity in 
the present.' 

' Sanctity ! oh, Violet, do not mock me. If 



222 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

I could only feel I was standing on firm 
earth, and without that horrible precipice 
which is ever yawning in front of me.' 

* You always magnified small excitements 
into big terrors, my dear Julia ; but once 
in the possesion of these letters, how safe 
you will feel. We shall run our team so 
much more easily when we are both ladies 
of society.' 

The duchess gave a low moan. She must 
have been unusually dyspeptic that evening, 
or perhaps she had been having a conver- 
sation with Mr Sivewright, for she evidently 
did not see clearly the way to arriving at 
that peaceful happy future, of which Violet 
had just been displaying the map. Mr 
Sivewright had told her that lying was a 
grievous offence, of which no one possessing 
a scintilla of honour or moral rectitude would 
permit themselves to be guilty ; and yet she 
was fully aware that Violet would coerce 
her into telling any amount of lies if once 



High Pressure. 223 



she saw fit to put the pressure on, and the 
duchess hated intrigue and scandal, and their 
concomitant worries, just as much as Violet 
loved and lived by them. They both sat 
silently for a few minutes, then Violet burst 
out laughing. 

* You miserable looking object. One 
would think I had bled you nearly to death, 
whereas I have not asked for a farthing, only 
a little sisterly help. Though how I am to 
get money to pay for my trousseau I don't 
know, and I shouldn't like to let Lord 
Beaurepaire do it.' 

' Oh, that can be easily arranged,' an- 
swered the duchess. ' If it were only that ; 
but you married to Lord Beaurepaire ! It 
seems so incongruous — you, a horrible little 
nobody, while he — ' 

* Is de sang pur et noble — you are not very 
flattering ; but never mind, if there were not 
a few mesalliances among the aristocracy, 
they would all be drivelling idiots.' 



224 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' I wonder what I am to say about you 
when asked of your antecedents ? ' 

' Anything you like, except the truth, 
which will not be difficult, since I don't think 
you know it.' 

' I know quite enough/ 

* Yes; but not all. Now it is settled, isn't 
it ? for I am getting bored with the subject ; 
let us talk of something else. Here, you 
may read those if you like,' and Violet 
tossed into her lap a small packet of letters, 
being those she had received from George 
Desborough since the balloon ascent. 

While the duchess read them she stood 
before the looking-glass, combing out and 
arranging her curly locks, humming while 
she did so a gay street organ ditty. The 
impression created in Violet's mind by poor 
George's dreadful accident was only of 
twenty-four hours' duration, and had long 
since become a thing of the past. 

' Hot, ain't they ? ' she said, as the duchess 



High Pressure. 225 

finished reading the last one. * What would 
the dear mother say if she saw them ? ' 

The duchess eave a little shudder as she 
returned them. 

' You are too heartless for anything,' 
she muttered. 

' No, Julia, pardon me, the remark is 
unjust. I was horribly shocked by George 
Desborough's death,, but as I never loved 
him, I cannot be expected to go on pining 
for ever.' 

' And do you wish to insinuate that you 
do love Lord Beaurepaire ? ' 

She turned round, looked at the duchess, 
and nodded her head. 

* Nonsense, Violet, it is quite impossible. 
He is sixty, while George Desborough 
was — ' 

' " Is human love the growth of human will?" 

Strange as you may think it, I care 
more for Lord Beaurepaire than for any 
man I have ever seen. We love by con- 

VOL. II. p 



2 2 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

trast, they say. I suppose It is the grand 
old oak character there is about him 
which contrasts with my unsubstantial 
nature.' 

'Well, I am surprised. If I thought you 
really loved him, it would of course make 
it easier for me to give my assistance. But 
Lord Beaurepaire is too good and noble 
to be made your plaything and to be thrown 
on one side the moment you have grasped 
his coronet.' 

' A nice opinion you have of me, but I 
believe I have deserved it, only in this 
instance I am true.' 

' Then to the fullest extent you may 
command me.' 

Mrs Tremayne sat down once more by 
the fire, and they talked over ways and 
means till the dressing-bell rang, and the 
duchess went off to her own apartments, 
leaving Violet with a more pensive, softer 
expression haunting her pretty face than 



High Pressure. 227 



was wont to linger among its dimples. 
Could it be that the gay madcap was caught 
in reality at last, and was not acting a part 
in order to make an ally of her Grace of 
Montarlis. 




CHAPTER XIV. 



A RENDEZVOUS. 




RS TREMAYNE had spoken 
truly when she told the duchess 
that she cared for Lord Beaure- 
paire, much though her grace was inclined 
to disbelieve the statement. For the first 
time in her life Violet had been caught ; as 
she herself said, the immeasurable distance 
which seemed to lie between her and Lord 
Beaurepaire had probably, in the first place, 
awakened that tender regard for him which 
is, as a rule, fostered by contraries. She 
had begun by striving to win him merely 
for position's sake, but since her return to 
Montarlis she had grown terribly cognisant 



A Rendezvous, 229 

of the fact that to fail in becoming Lady 
Beaurepaire would bring her many a more 
uncomfortable half-hour than mere disap- 
pointment could produce. She dressed for 
dinner very silently and thoughtfully after 
the duchess left, making Amandine wonder 
what had happened to dash her mistress's 
high spirits. 

' I'll wear my black lace frock, and a red 
rose or two,' she said at last, seeing the 
maid had laid a gorgeous blue satin on the 
bed. 

' Mais^ madaine^ que cest triste le noir! 

' I feel depressed to-night ; besides, there 
is no one to dinner except Mr Sivewright.' 

So Violet went down looking very sub- 
dued, even a little pale, whether by art or 
nature did not transpire. It was evidently 
her intention to assume a quiet subdued sort 
of manner, still the wonted flash came for 
a moment into her eyes when she shook 
hands with the vicar. Actress though she 



230 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



was, she could not so entirely conceal her 
feelings as not to let the lurking hate peep 
out. She was very civil, however ; it was 
her intention to be civil if she gained her 
point, spitefully revengeful if she missed it. 
The dinner was a pleasant one, pleasanter 
than might have been expected with two 
such antagonistic elements as Violet and the 
vicar sitting face to face, and the duchess 
living in a constant dread of what the next 
word might entail. But the enemies had evi- 
dently declared a temporary truce ; Violet, 
to suit her purposes, Mr Sivewright because 
he deemed it bad taste to be otherwise 
than perfectly polite to guests he met at 
the duke's table. 

For a while the conversation was very 
general, then after the servants had left 
the room it crept on to more intimate 
and neighbourly matters, naturally touching 
more or less on the Desboroughs ; although 
George had been dead nearly six weeks, 



A Rendezvozis. 231 

yet they were still objects of interest to 
each of the little party assembled In the 
duke's dining-room. In fact Mr Sive- 
wrlght had never ceased to lament over 
George's death, or to regret that Matthew 
would probably one day inherit the fine 
old estate of Vantage. 

* And I doubt if it will be long,' he added, 
* for the squire does not seem to recover 
either his tone or his spirits.' 

* He is fond of Matthew, though,' re- 
marked the duke. 

* Naturally. Indeed, I am not sure that 
Matthew was not his favourite son ; but 
he was so proud of George, believed so 
fully in his grand, noble disposition, and 
told me only a few weeks back that he 
meant at once to give over the chief man- 
agement of the estate to George. "It will 
keep him out of the mischief idleness pro- 
duces, and give him an interest in his 
future property," he said.* 



232 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Yes, George was cut out for a county 
gentleman, while Matthew scarcely knows 
arable land from pasture,' remarked the 
duke. 

' He must learn,' said the duchess. ' I 
am not going to have Matthew so utterly 
run down. He is a dear boy, and very 
handsome ; all the ladies like him. Of 
course he will not take orders now.' 

' I should imagine not ; but Matthew 
never consults me on his affairs, so I can 
tell you but little,' and then as though the 
subject of Matthew's future bored him 
from the very frequency with which it was 
discussed, he changed it by remarking, — 

' The Beaurepaires are expected at Van- 
tage to-morrow.' 

' We shall all be glad to have them there,' 
said the duchess. ' I am particularly fond of 
Lady Valentina. Do you like her, Mr 
Sivewright ? ' 

' I have not the honour of being acquainted 



A Re7idezvoiis. 



with her. I met Lord Beaurepaire when I 
was last in London, but did not see his 
daughter.' 

* I think you will acknowledge her to be 
a very agreeable addition to our circle. I, 
for my part, think it would be charming if 
she became a permanent member of it.' 

' How so ? ' 

'Why, by marrying Matthew, of course.' 

The vicar's eyebrows arched, and he gave 
a little bow, but did not trust himself to 
answer ; he either thought a great deal or 
not at all on the subject, it were difficult to 
judge which. 

Then there was a tiny pause, broken by 
Mrs Tremayne's inquiring as to whether 
Mr Sivewright had heard of or from the 
Baileys. 

Hard though she might try, she could not 
succeed in keeping out of troubled waters. 

' They are Mr Lently's parishioners,' was 
the rather evasive ansv/er. 



2 34 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

* This house is in Mr Lently's parish, is 
it not ? ' she asked, with a sort of innocent 
ingenue manner. 

' Partly,' answered the duke ; * the west 
side of the house is in the parish of Fern- 
wood.' 

' And I sleep in the east,' went on Violet, 
' so I am in Mr Lently's parish. I ought to 
go to Ravensholme Church, ought not I, Mr 
Sivewright ? ' 

* I have no doubt Mr Lently would be 
delighted to have you to swell the list of 
his daily attendants.' 

' Really, and you so lightly give up the 
care of my soul, just when I was beginning 
to think you had made an impression.' 

The duchess rose, Violet's badinage sin- 
cerely alarmed her, and she resolved to put 
an end to it, even though rising at that 
moment entailed the seeming gaucherie of 
an interruption. 

Once in the hall, she said hurriedly, — 



A Rendezvous. 235 



' Positively, Vi, if you wish to succeed in 
your project, you must leave off twitting 
Mr Sivewright.' 

' He is such a lovely soft pincushion, the 
pins' points all go in so easily.' 

* Nonsense ! now do go and sing, and let 
us have no more intrio^uino^ and double 
entendres to-night.* 

By the time the gentlemen came into the 
drawing-room, Violet's fresh sweet voice was 
trilling away its nightingale notes, now lend- 
ing a pathos — of which but few would have 
believed her capable — to some ballad of 
Moore's, now dashing with petulant spirit 
into a lively French ckansonnette, of which 
perhaps it was fortunate that she alone in 
the quartette knew the exact meaning. 

* Out of an art, a man may be so trivial you 
would mistake him for an imbecile, at best a 
grown infant. Put him into his art, and how 
high he soars above you,' is a quotation from 
a great writer; it contains the key to much of 



236 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Violet Tremayne's success. Many who cen- 
sured her usual flighty giddy behaviour, among 
them the duke, entirely forgot the volumes 
of disapprobation which could be writ against 
her, as soon as she called on them to follow 
her into the realms of song. 

The evening passed without any more 
unsafe passages ; the duke listened entranced 
to Violet's music, while the duchess carried 
on a whispered tete-a-tite with her clerical 
friend, whose savage breast music had no 
powers to soothe. 

' Won the priest, eh ? ' asked Violet of the 
duchess, as an hour or two later they stood 
alone for a moment on the staircase. 

' Don't call Mr Sivewright a priest ; he 
hates it.' 

' Well, casuist, sophist. I don't care what 
he calls himself as long as he does not 
attempt to tell the truth about me. But it 
rests with you. Good-night.' 

She speedily dismissed Amandine, who 



A Rendezvous. 237 

was waiting in the room, and became 
quite a pensive Violet. She took out a bundle 
of old letters from under the tray in her 
dressing-case, well worn, yellow-looking mis- 
sives, and read them over carefully, and with 
as grave a face and sober a mien as though 
there really was an under-current of senti- 
ment flowing quietly beneath the more noisy 
gurgling stream of her life. Perhaps it was 
so ; few natures present all their aspects to 
the world's gaze, and some people seem to 
take special pains In keeping their better 
qualities carefully concealed. 

Violet dug a good many fossils out of the 
dead past that night, for the ' iron tongue of 
midnight had long since tolled twelve,' before 
covering them once again with a thin layer 
of earth, she got Into bed, and after a while 
fell sleep. 

It was the custom at Montarlis Castle for 
the ladies to have breakfast in their rooms, 
and no one was expected to appear or to 



238 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

have their whereabouts inquired into so long 
as they presented themselves at the two 
o'clock luncheon. Mrs Tremayne woke about 
half-past nine, shook away with an effort the 
sense of weariness that still haunted her 
eyelids, looked at the fire which Amandine 
had stirred into a cheerful blaze, got up and 
refreshed herself with a warm bath — little 
Sybarite that she was, she would not have 
got into cold water for the world — then in a 
warm silk-quilted dressing-gown she sat by 
the fire and sipped her chocolate with an 
enjoyment which testified that luxury was 
the chief desideratum of her life. 

* Half-past ten ! Good gracious ! how late 
it is ! Here, Amandine, quick, my grey 
flannel dress. I am going out.' 

In a very few minutes her toilette was 
accomplished, for Violet was no dawdler, and 
then she sped down the staircases by which she 
had entered on the previous evening, and went 
^ut at the side door. She did not go near 



A Rendezvous, 239 



Ravensholme, however, but bore off to the 
right towards the Httle wood which lay down 
in the hollow just out of sight of the many 
windows of the castle, and where she had 
met ' Cheap Jack ' a few weeks back, before 
such an unexpected fresh chapter had com- 
menced in her life. Jack Varley had appa- 
rently more belief in a fine lady's promise than 
have most men, for he was at the trysting- 
place before her, and pulling off his velvet 
cap as she approached, he stood looking at 
her abjectly. 

' Well, Jack,' she said, trying to be off-hand. 
I have come, you see, though I daresay you 
did not expect me.' 

* Indeed I did, or I should not be here.' 

* Ah, well. Tell me quickly all the tale 
of little Pearl. I must not be absent long. 
They will be expecting me back at the 
castle.' 

Without waiting for farther bidding, Jack 
told her, only more succintly, all the story he 



240 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

had on a previous occasion related to Mr 
Slvewrlght. Mrs Tremayne sat meantime in 
her usual careless manner swinging on the 
bough of an adjacent tree, occasionally 
nodding her head or exclaiming as the 
narrative called forth her approbation or 
the contrary. 

• So you were very fond of little Pearl. 
Dear me, how odd that you should remember 
her all these years ? ' 

' I'd give my entire travelling parapher- 
nalia, merchandise and all, if I could only 
know that she's alive and well ! ' he said 
heartily. 

' And if you met this said Pearl, would 
you be very good to her and help her, and 
do what you could to serve her ? ' 

' I'd give her my life, lady. I cannot say 
more.' 

' Bless the man, there is no one in the 
world I belong to who would promise so 
much. And you say I am like this Pearl.' 



A Re7idezvotis> 241 

' More like than any one I have ever seen 
in all my wanderings.' 

* I wonder if that is flattering ? ' said Violet 
with a laugh. 

* I thought her very beautiful,' was the 
simple answer. 

She looked at him for a moment with a 
flush on her face, then she held out her hand. 

' Suppose I were to tell you that I am 
Pearl, her own self ? ' 

' You ! Oh, lady, don't mock me,' and 
there were tears in Jack Varley's eyes, and 
such a gulp in his throat as he tried to 
speak steadily, that even Violet did not dare 
to laugh. She only said, very gravely and 
soberly, — 

' It is quite true. I am Pearl, the Pearl for 
whom it seems you have been looking so 
long,' then, with her usual volatility, she 
changed her tone into a light bantering one, 
' now you have found me, what do you mean 
to do with me ? ' 

VOL. II. Q . 



242 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' I hoped when I found Pearl never to be 
parted from her again ; but such a great 
lady as you are cannot be Pearl/ 

' I tell you I am Pearl, and if you'll sit 
down and be rational for five minutes, 
instead of looking like a gaping madman, 
I'll tell you all about it. My mother, well, 
I don't think I ever had one. Anyhow, she 
was dead and gone before I can remember. 
No one ever told me anything about her, 
and my father could not be troubled with me. 
I daresay I was a little vixen, so he put me 
out to nurse, and then went abroad and for- 
got to pay for me, and the dear sweet woman 
who had charge of me handed me over to 
her brother, who was the master of the 
travelling caravan, in order that my talents 
might be utilised for my keep. At last it 
occurred to my worthy parent that he might 
as well see what I was like. He had had a 
lucky stroke at the gaming tables, so he 
sent the arrears to the woman who had 



.-/ Rendezvous. 243 



charge of me, and demanded the presence of 
his daughter. I suppose my aspect was 
agreeable to him, for he took me with him 
the next time he went abroad, and sent me 
to a French school. It's a queer story isn't 
it ? but its a true one. And so you are 
Jack.' 

' Do you remember me .^ ' 

' Remember you '^. I should think I do. 
Why, life would have been unbearable in 
that travelling establishment if it had not 
been for you.' 

* And yet you did not know me again.' 

' Indeed no. How should I ? Why, you 
were only a stripling then, and I was such 
a mite. I only remember there was a Jack 
who was very kind ; but look you. Jack, you 
must not tell this story all about. What 
would people think if they knew that 
Violet Tremayne had once been little Pearl 
dancing at an itinerant show.' 

' Am I then never to see you, now I have 



244 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

found you ? ' and Mr Varley's countenance 
saddened notably. 

' Why, of course sometimes. You see me 
now, don't you ? ' 

' But can't we be always together ? ' 

* Always together ? No, that would be 
quite impossible, you see good luck or 
bad luck, which ever it is, has made 
me hunt with a different pack from 
yours.' 

' We began life with the same hounds ! ' 
suggested Jack. 

' No, we didn't. I only came into your 
country for a while by accident.' 

' I wish accident would bring you back 
now. To think I have found you again 
only to lose you directly ! It is too bad. 
Now I've always thought when I met 
little Pearl, what a pleasure it would be 
to drive her about in my yellow shay, 
and show her sonsy face at all the fair 
meetings.' 



A Rendezvous. 245 

' It can't be, my honest friend, it cannot 
be. Granted, it would be enormous fun ; 
but there are reasons,' and as she thought 
of Lord Beaurepaire her face grew pale. 

* Then I wish, lady, the dream about find- 
ing Pearl had never become true.' 

' That is all nonsense, Jack. I shall be 
able to help you in many ways, and you'll 
help me ; having a secret, too, will be a bond 
of unity between us.' 

* I hate secrets,' cried Jack. * I like 
plain straightforward sailing. I never was 
ashamed of nothing in my life, and to 
think I've found Pearl only to hear that 
she is ashamed of me.' 

* I am not ashamed of you. Jack. How can 
you say so ? If I had not loved those dear 
old childish days, I should not have owned 
that I am Pearl ; so be reasonable, old com- 
rade, and we will do the best we can for 
each other.' 

But Varley shook his head. 



246 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' I don't want to have nothing to do with 
Pearl on these terms. All or nothing, 
says I.' 

* What rubbish. Do you mean you would 
rather never see me again, because if so, I'll 
say *' good-bye " this very minute. Though 
I must say, Jack, for the sake of *' auld 
lang syne," I should like to see you some- 
times.* 

* Little Pearl, little Pearl ! ' he murmured, 
' a fine lady in a big castle. It's a poor 
ending to a man's life-dream.' 

* You shouldn't have dreams, Jack ; you 
should be practical like me. Now look here, 
for I must go, they will miss me at the 
house, let us agree to meet here once a 
week while I'm at Montarlis, and talk over 
our respective prospects seriously.' 

' I don't care for meeting once a week,' 
he said doggedly. 

' Oh do, Jack,' and she looked at him so 
pleadingly that he turned away not to let her 



A Rendezvous. 247 



see how much her tone affected him. ' Do, 
Jack, to please poor Httle Pearl.' 

* All right then, if you wish it, this day 
week, we'll see after.' 

' That's right. Good-bye, dear old Jack. 
I must go, or the whole house will be in 
a commotion. Good-bye.' She took his 
hand, which he did not attempt to offer, 
and then she ran off, muttering to herself, — 

' I believe I was a fool to tell him ; but 
human weakness is human weakness, and I 
was very fond of Jack.' 

He meanwhile stood gazing after her till 
she was quite out of sight. 




CHAPTER XV. 



TOO MUCH LIGHT. 




HE feelings with which Matthew 
entered once more on what he 
called the drudgery work In Gower 
Street were very different from those In 
which he had left It. It was not that his 
position of eldest son weighed on him 
heavily, It had never occurred to him that 
for that reason he was to give up the great 
business of mental instruction ; still he 
could not help regarding the future from a 
different aspect to that from which he had 
hitherto viewed it. Every one by common 
consent seemed to decide that of course he 
would not take orders now, that the duties 



Too rmcch Light. 249 

which would fall on him as heir of Vantage 
were quite incompatible with those the 
Church demands of her priests. And truth 
being told, Matthew felt considerably re- 
lieved at not being compelled to exercise 
his free will in the matter. Circumstances, 
though dark in themselves, had freed him 
from a very disagreeable dilemma, in which 
conscientious scruples on the one hand and 
obstinacy on the other were arrayed in fierce 
combat. One feature in his fresh term of 
residence in Gower Street was that he never 
now paid intimate and friendly visits to old 
Mrs Wharton, though she still sat as ready 
to listen to his confidences as of old in her 
place by the parlour fire. She regretted 
in her kindly old heart the sad accident 
which, causing his brother's death, had 
so dried up the fount of spontaneity in 
Matthew, that he no longer cared to seek 
for sympathy. It never occurred to her to 
guess that an estrangement existed between 



250 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

him and Claire Bailey, and that, though he 
would have told her he loved Claire still, yet 
the marvellous energy which he had devoted 
to work since his return — an energy which 
had not a little surprised Mr Wharton, — was 
entirely due to another woman's influence. 

To please Lady Valentina he had resolved 
to trample on his chimeras, and become as 
far as he could a practical man of the 
world. But how could he own this to Mrs 
Wharton ? 

Nothing, Matthew was beginning to dis- 
cover, was so irksome as a confidante, 
when the confidence does not possess a 
realistic form, and his mind at this moment 
was too full of shifting scenes to suffer 
much prying into ; he could not bear to be 
questioned about old acknowledgments or 
exclaimed at for making fresh ones. 

So he settled down to work at Mr 
Wharton's very assiduously, hoping there- 
by to silence many voices which were whis- 



Too much Light, 25 



pering within. He had elected to return 
to his tutor's at once, and spend his Christ- 
mas in London ' to economise time,' he said ; 
but it was in a great measure, perhaps, be- 
cause a meeting with Mr Lently would have 
been far more seriously distasteful to him 
than even the fireside explanation with 
Mrs Wharton, which he so persistently 
avoided. 

Henceforth he would have no counsellor 
but Lady Valentina. She understood his 
* thick-coming fancies ' better than any human 
being, and in answer to the closely written 
pages of note-paper which he constantly sent 
her, there invariably came a soothing well- 
advised missive. So far it was well, and 
Matthew could not have chosen better, save 
for little Claire who was fretting her heart 
out in foreign exile ; but of this he knew not, 
or pretended not to know. She had gone 
abroad because it pleased her, he supposed, 
and having gone, could scarcely expect him 



252 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

to follow. Was he going to marry Claire ? 
He presumed so, her image it was that 
held a very conspicuous place in future 
plans ; still somehow Lady Valentina always 
seemed to be towering over it. At all 
events he would not think of marriage at 
all for the present, but devote himself to 
study for — well, for Lady Valentina's sake. 

And Matthew set his shoulder so vigor- 
ously to the wheel, that Mr Wharton was 
beginning to think he had miscalculated his 
mental powers, and that he was capable of 
greater things than he had at first believed. 
He had yet to discover to what an extent 
Matthew was wanting in stability, and that 
it was in this rather than in quickness that 
he was deficient. Two or three weeks 
devoted to hard classics, and the books 
bored him ; a little longer to logic, and the 
craving for knowledge was satiated, for, * to 
be logical you must be irreligious,' was 
Matthews argument — 'after all, what did it 



Too much Light. 253 

all tend to — what more could a man want in 
life than faith ? ' then he sat down and wrote 
an extensive exposition of his views to Lady 
Valentina. Having done this, he set himself 
to a new study, namely, the discovery, if 
possible, of his tutor's religious opinions, for 
whom he had conceived during the last few 
weeks feelings of deep interest, even if they 
did not amount to affection — for Matthew 
was not only compelled to acknowledge Mr 
Wharton's vast mental superiority, but also 
to recognise the many amiable and endear- 
ing qualities with which his nature was 
replete. 

Invariably the first question that arose in 
Matthew's pious mind, whenever he found 
his roomy heart tenanted by a new friend, 
was whether that friend's spiritual state was 
a happy one. He was naturally a doctor of 
souls, and though wanting the sanction of 
ordination to enable him to practice ex officio, 
it was his bent and his delight to treat stray 



2 54 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

cases en amatezir. The delicacy then which 
Mr Wharton showed in avoiding the discus- 
sion of rehgious matters with the young 
zealot — one of those refinements so common 
in rough intellectual men, proceeding as they 
do from mind and principle and not from 
breeding — could not for very long stave off 
the explanation which one of the parties 
concerned was bent upon seeking. Sunday 
was the only day when anything like leisure 
ventured to smile on the busy Whartonian 
household, and between the two services, 
which Matthew still punctually attended — 
though he had given up the week-day ones 
— he proposed to his master the frivolity of 
a walk. Thus on a bright frosty afternoon 
they found themselves in deep confabula- 
tion in Kensington Gardens. Matthew was 
querying in his somewhat undecided way 
which ritualistic church he should attend for 
evening service, when he asked abruptly, — 
* Do you never go to church, Mr Wharton?' 



Too much Light. 255 



* I hope the fact does not shock you very 
much ? ' was the tutor's answer. 

* That depends on why you keep 
away.' 

* Exactly ; very sensibly put, and deserv- 
ing a straightforward answer. The only 
object I could possibly have in going would 
be to avoid shocking the few people who 
trouble their heads about the matter, and as 
it would, more or less, compel me to act a 
lie, I think I am better away.' 

' I am afraid I understand you only too 
well ; but I trust you are too good, too 
noble a man not to change in all these 
respects in time.' 

* I wonder If you know how full of awe 
and solemnity your tone and face have 
become,' remarked Mr Wharton with a 
smile. * As a mark of friendly interest this 
is not lost on me, believe me ; but as for 
changing — well, I am not bigoted enough 
in my philosophy to say anything for cer- 



256 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

tain ; still, I believe very few things to be 
more unlikely.' 

* I take the Hberty of praying for you 
night and morning,' said Matthew fervently. 

' Well, that can do me no harm.' 

' But do you never pray ? Pardon me, 

of course you do. It is impertinent of me 

to ask the question.' 

* There is no danger of my thinking you 
impertinent ; only, for your own faith's sake, 
it were as well perhaps that you should 
not pry too closely into the secrets of 
another's mind who does not think as 
you do.' 

' My faith must be a halting one, and I 
were indeed unfit for the holy office to 
which I hoped one day to be called, if I can 
be tainted by every heresy,' said Matthew 
zealously. ' Please tell me what you really 
believe.' 

* Has it never occurred to you that prayer 
must be difficult for those whose ideas of God 



Too much Light. 257 

are not as limitless as yours are, who merely 
regard God as the whole good and noble 
part of the universe, a being who may 
or may not have a conscious entity, who may 
or may not be infinite in His attributes ?' 

The tears rose into Matthew's eyes, and 
for a second or two he did not speak ; then 
he said energetically, — 

* I would rather be one of those innocent 
ducks, paddling away its brief existence in- 
nocuously on that placid water, than have 
the awful responsibility of humanity unen- 
lightened by Christian grace/ 

* My dear young friend, provided we are 
all sincere, provided we all seek the truth 
honestly, and act up to our respective ideas 
of right, surely that must be the main 
point ? ' 

* If we do — ay, there is the tremen- 
dous point ; but I fear there is no such 
thing as a man with advantages and train- 
ing who arrives honestly at this. Oh, don't 

VOL. II. R 



258 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

mistake me ; in all other matters he may 
be sincerity itself: to be trusted with life 
and honour, so were many of the heathen, 
still there must be a cankerous plague-spot 
somewhere. The devil — nay, do not smile — 
the devil has blinded him.' 

* Granting you your devil, why should he 
be allowed to blind him ? ' 

' There is no commoner punishment for 
sin. Either in his early believing days, for 
probably he was taught Hke other people, 
he fell into what he well knew to be mor- 
tal sin, or what is perhaps more likely, he 
has glided into the heinous offence of set- 
ting up his pride of intellect against the 
Almighty.' 

' Surely you admit the right of an 
intellectually endowed being to use his 
reason ? ' 

' Only so far, in religious matters, as to 
assure himself of what every child and 
every philosopher must alike see and ac- 



Too miLch Light, 259 

knowledge — that regarding things infinite 
and supernatural, grace is the only road to 
wisdom ; for your boasted logic itself is the 
first to prove that the natural and finite, of 
which order are our minds, cannot possibly 
deal with them.' 

Mr Wharton looked at Matthew for a 
second or two with a very scrutinising glance ; 
he marked the flushed cheek, the bright 
speaking eye by which the young devotee 
showed how much his heart was in his 
words, and then, being an honourable, sin- 
cere man, he stopped short in his walk, and, 
laying his hand on his young friend's arm, 
he said very gravely, — 

' My dear Matthew, as tutor and pupil, 
we must pursue this subject no farther. 
You have been confided to me by your 
friends in order that your secular studies 
should receive my best attention. With 
religious matters I doubt if I have any 
right to tamper. Keep your faith, my 



26o Sackcloth and Bi^oadcloth, 

boy, since it gives you peace, and don't 
let John Wharton have it upon his con- 
science that he taught you a philosophy 
which may, probably will, utterly fail to fill 
its place.' 

* But since you doubt the truth of this 
philosophy, why do you practise it ? ' said 
Matthew, who was not easily silenced when 
once set a-going on matters of faith.' 

* That entails the very discussion which 
I wish to avoid.' 

* You treat me as if I were a child, by 
declining to argue with me,' exclaimed the 
young man, with some irritation. * Is this 
your vaunted liberty of opinion ? ' 

* You forget that to me you are as a 
child. I am your tutor, set up in authority 
over you. My honour forbids that I should 
say anything that might have the effect of 
subverting your faith. Now let us talk of 
other matters, while we make for a metro- 
politan station and take an underground 



Too much Li o^ lit. 261 



train to Gower Street, or we shall be 
late.' 

Matthew's good breeding prevented him 
from pursuing the subject as he would dearly 
have liked to do, but he repeated the word 
honour to himself in various tones. It 
seemed marvellous to him that a man should 
care so much for his honour and so little 
for his God. The rest of the walk that day- 
was comparatively silent ; none of the points 
of interest which Mr Wharton loved to dis- 
cuss with his pupils on history, classics, etc., 
were likely to fall otherwise than flat, after 
the grander system which had been brought 
before their minds, and then so summarily 
discarded. 

Only one month out of the six Matthew 
had arranged with Lady Valentina that he 
would spend in self-improvement had passed^ 
and his zest was already gone. 

Mr Wharton had been quite wise in 
stopping argument \i he wished to have 



262 Sackcloth a7id Broadcloth. 

any farther hold on his pupil's mental power 
— only unfortunately he had allowed the 
discussion to go too far. Matthew had as- 
certained positively what he had only pre- 
viously suspected — that Mr Wharton did 
not believe in revealed religion, and from 
that moment, though he would have given 
his life to save his tutor's soul, he had 
no farther confidence In him as a master, 
and moreover was beset by many scruples 
as to whether he were acting in accordance 
with his conceived views of right and wrong 
in remaining any longer as a pupil under so 
unholy a teacher. 

A letter to Lady Valentina was of course 
the unfailing result of much worry and 
anxiety, and perhaps Matthew could scarcely 
have credited the amount of perplexity in 
which its perusal involved her. Lady Val- 
entlna's range, though she had naturally 
a clear brain and had read largely, was a 
imited one, the fact being that her brain 



Too much Light. 263 

had never had its working powers fully tested, 
and her reading had been of the most desul- 
tory character. The ideas then propounded 
by Matthew as being those of his tutor were 
entirely new to Lady Valentina, who had 
never looked outside her old-fashioned 
Church of England doctrines. ' Of course 
she knew there were Dissenters, but they 
were generally found only among the lower 
classes, while of men with philosophical 
views, she had naturally heard — Kant, 
Hegel, Comte, and the like ; but to meet 
one of them in every-day life — oh ! that 
was scarcely to be stood. Poor Matthew, 
no wonder he was unhappy if such were his 
associates ; but then his own religious feelings 
were so very fine drawn, that there might 
perhaps be some slight exaggeration. What 
should she do ? If she advised him to try 
a little longer, he would only perhaps think 
she was wanting in proper principle,' and so, 
after nearly as much time spent in reflection 



264 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

on the subject as Matthew himself had 
passed, she, being at Vantage Park when 
she received her letter, resolved to consult 
that very polished and delightful man the 
Vicar of Fernwood. 



END OF VOL. II. 



COLSTON AND SON, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH, 



Ill 



UNIVERSITY OF tLLINOIS-URBANA 



3 0112 051398698 



*?^:^